Revealed in a flash

2019-03-07 07:08:16

TWO X-ray flashes from the Sun have lit up the asteroid Eros, giving astronomers their first chance to see which chemical elements are present on an asteroid’s surface. NASA’s NEAR spacecraft, which is spiralling towards Eros, carries an X-ray spectrometer designed to see the X-ray “fingerprints”of the elements. The two flashes showed that the surface contains magnesium, aluminium, silicon and iron. But it won’t be clear how abundant these elements are until the spacecraft gets closer to the asteroid in mid-May. “This will yield information on the origin and evolution of Eros,” says Jacob Trombka,