A sample of the asteroid was sent to Earth in September. The first analyzes show that dust and rocks from Bennu contain water and carbon.
In 2016, a space probe was sent to the asteroid Bennu. The mission is called OSIRIS-REx.
The space probe collected rocks and dust from the asteroid and returned the sample to Earth.
A capsule containing the sample material landed in the Utah desert in the United States of America on September 24 of this year.
Now searchers can finally dive into the content.
Provided by NASA First glimpse of asteroid dust Wednesday.
The actual container containing the sample had not yet been opened, but excess material from the kit was scattered over the lid.
Scientists at NASA have conducted some preliminary research on this substance.
Components of life
Asteroids are remnants of the time when the solar system formed. Research on dust from Bennu may provide clues about whether asteroids that collided with Earth four billion years ago brought with them water and other ingredients for life. According to NASA.
The OSIRIS-REx project is the first time NASA has brought a sample of an asteroid back to Earth.
NASA Chief Scientist Katherine Calvin singled out the mission as one of the most exciting things happening at the space agency this year in a previous interview with forskning.no.
Japan was the first to bring a sample of an asteroid to Earth in 2010.
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Water in clay minerals
The capsule containing the precious asteroid dust has now been safely placed in a specially built chamber at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
The excess material in the capsule is grains and dust of different sizes. They are darker and lighter in color, like salt and pepper.
Dust analyzes show that Bennu contains clay minerals with water trapped in the crystalline structure. According to nature.
– The reason that Earth is a habitable world, and that we have oceans, lakes and rain, is that clay minerals, like those we see from Bennu, landed on Earth four billion years ago, said Danta Laureta, during a press conference. Wednesday, Writes The New York Times.
He leads the OSIRIS-REx project.
Furthermore, carbon compounds have been found in asteroid dust. It was already known that Bennu contains carbon.
The first analyzes indicate that the percentage of carbon in some samples is high, reaching about five percent.
Carbon exists in the form of carbonate minerals and organic compounds with carbon and hydrogen. Organic compounds are essential for life.
These compounds glowed in the sample under ultraviolet light.
-These are full of organic matter. It’s a fascinating material, astrobiologist Daniel Glavin tells Nature.
Sulfur-rich minerals were also found in the sample.
They determine how quickly things melt, and they’re also very important to biology, Loretta said, according to the New York Times.
Lots to look forward to
NASA believes the asteroid sample will provide insight into the early history of the solar system.
– As we delve into ancient secrets preserved in the dust and rocks of asteroid Bennu, we open a time capsule that gives us a deep insight into the origins of our solar system, says Dante Lauretta. In a press release.
Soon, researchers will open the actual container containing the sample. But first they have to secure all the excess material weighing 1.5 grams. The same container is believed to contain another 250 grams of asteroid material.
The OSIRIS-REx sample is the largest carbon-rich asteroid sample ever delivered to Earth, and will help scientists investigate the origins of life on our planet for generations to come, says NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
The space probe that delivered the package to Earth is now on its way to a new asteroid, Apophis. It should be ready in 2029.
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