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Asteroid Bennu may have got its spinning-top shape from landslides

Asteroids that are shaped like spinning tops, such as Bennu and Ryugu, may have been slowed down and shaped by a series of huge landslides

Space 29 June 2022

New Scientist Default Image

Copyright: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

Huge landslides on the asteroid Bennu and other, similar space rocks may have been far more important to their evolution than researchers previously realised. They may have given these asteroids their odd spinning-top shapes, as well as slowed their rotation and helped prevent them from falling apart.

Bennu is most likely a rubble-pile asteroid, meaning that instead of one big rock, it is made of many chunks of rock held together by gravity. This means that it isn’t particularly hard for even a relatively small impact by …