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JGR Planets




The exploration of near‐Earth asteroids has revealed dynamic surfaces characterized by mobile, unconsolidated material that responds to local geophysical gradients, resulting in distinct morphologies and boulder distributions. The OSIRIS‐REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security‐Regolith Explorer) mission confirmed that asteroid (101955) Bennu is a rubble pile with an unconsolidated surface dominated by boulders. In this work, we documented morphologies indicative of mass movement on Bennu and assessed the relationship to slope and other geologic features on the surface. We found globally distributed morphologic evidence of mass movement on Bennu up to ~70° latitude and on spatial scales ranging from individual boulders (meter scale) to a single debris flow ~100 m long and several meters thick. The apparent direction of mass movement is consistent with the local downslope direction and dominantly moves from the midlatitudes toward the equator. Mass movement appears to have altered the surface expression of large (≥30m diameter) boulders, excavating them in the midlatitudes and burying them in the equatorial region. Up to a 10 ± 1 m depth of material may have been transported away from the midlatitudes, which would have deposited a layer ~5 ± 1 m thick in the equatorial region assuming a stagnated flow model. This mass movement could explain the observed paucity of small (<50‐m diameter) craters and may have contributed material to Bennu's equatorial ridge. Models of changes in slope suggest that the midlatitude mass movement occurred in the past several hundred thousand years in regions that became steeper by several degrees.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.