NASA scientists are just beginning to analyze the parts brought from the planet Asteroid BennuEarly evidence suggests that the material it contains originated from an ancient ocean world.
This assumption is based on the phosphate crust discovered on the asteroid. The calcium- and magnesium-rich phosphate mineral has never before been seen on meteorites, those tiny space rocks that pass through the atmosphere and reach Earth.
The chemistry of the mineral bears an uncanny resemblance to that found in the steam emanating from beneath the icy crust of Saturn's moon. Enceladus.
Phosphate is also a building block for life, adding weight to the hypothesis that life on Earth was first created by materials left behind by asteroids, when they crashed onto the surface during our planet's turbulent early history.
Scientists say the world that Bennu was a part of likely had similarities to Enceladus but was about half its size. As the solar system formed, it would have been destroyed by collision with another body, creating thousands of asteroids.
These are very exciting investigations for scientists, as the opportunity to study asteroid samples is very rare. the OSIRIS-REx mission This is only the third time in history that we have been able to grab pieces of an asteroid and return them to Earth.
In Bennu's case, the round trip took a total of seven years and covered a significant distance of 6.21 billion kilometers (3.86 billion miles). The sample capsule returned safely in September 2023.
“We're going to be busy for a very long time,” planetary scientist Dante Lauretta, of the University of Arizona, told Leonard David at a news conference. Space.com website. “That's a huge amount of samples for us.”
Teams around the world are taking a closer look at asteroid fragments. At the University of Arizona, they are sifting through thousands of particles, the largest of which is 3.5 cm (1.4 inches) across.
These include techniques that are applied to asteroid samples X-ray diffractionwhere electromagnetic radiation patterns are analyzed to understand more about the nature of the material it comes into contact with.
Bennu is believed to represent material left over from the formation of the solar system, about 4.5 billion years ago. Understanding where it comes from will teach us more about where it comes from as well.
We are still in the very early stages of this research, and we can expect many discoveries and discoveries in the future – including, perhaps, confirmation of the type of discovery. planetary That gave birth to Benno.
The discoveries made so far are scheduled to be presented at the 55th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, which will be held in Texas.
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