Research ArticleSPACE SCIENCES

Hemispherical differences in the shape and topography of asteroid (101955) Bennu

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Science Advances  08 Oct 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 41, eabd3649
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd3649

Abstract

We investigate the shape of near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu by constructing a high-resolution (20 cm) global digital terrain model from laser altimeter data. By modeling the northern and southern hemispheres separately, we find that longitudinal ridges previously identified in the north extend into the south but are obscured there by surface material. In the south, more numerous large boulders effectively retain surface materials and imply a higher average strength at depth to support them. The north has fewer large boulders and more evidence of boulder dynamics (toppling and downslope movement) and surface flow. These factors result in Bennu’s southern hemisphere being rounder and smoother, whereas its northern hemisphere has higher slopes and a less regular shape. We infer an originally asymmetric distribution of large boulders followed by a partial disruption, leading to wedge formation in Bennu’s history.

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