Asteroid samples taken by NASA may be crumbs from an ancient ocean world

Asteroid samples taken by NASA may be crumbs from an ancient ocean world

After months of frustration, NASA finally got it An open Bennu asteroid sample container In January, large amounts of asteroid captured by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft were detected. Now, a senior member of the mission says the distant piece of space rock may be a mini-planet — the building block of a planet — that once belonged to an ocean realm.

Dante Lauretta, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona and principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx mission, He told New Scientist magazine “My working hypothesis is that this was an ancient oceanic world.”

While it’s “highly speculative,” Loretta says saidThis is what the high levels of phosphate in Bennu’s samples indicate. Phosphorus is the building block of life and was found last year A spit of oceans beneath the surface of Enceladus, Saturn’s icy moon. Because water is a prerequisite for life as we know it, these oceanic worlds are a prime target for missions focused on astrobiology and the search for life beyond Earth.

OSIRIS-REx launched in September 2016 and arrived at Bennu, a 4.5 billion-year-old asteroid, in December 2018. The spacecraft traveled about 200 million miles to reach Bennu, a carbon-rich remnant from the formation of the solar system. . It returned to Earth in September 2023 with about 250 grams of the asteroid sample, in addition to other… 70 grams of additional ingredients Found outside the sample container. The specimen is an “astrobiologist’s dream.” According to By OSIRIS-REx analyst Daniel Glavin.

What’s so exciting about this mission is that researchers now have access to space materials that haven’t been spoiled by the journey through Earth’s atmosphere. Asteroids that fall to Earth as meteorites heat up when they fall. If they are not completely burned, they are transformed by the process, and are then contaminated by the ground materials that fall on them. It can be difficult to trace these meteorites back to their sources in space, while scientists have captured Bennu samples directly from their fascinating source.

Bennu samples have the power to give us Timeline of the formation of the solar system It reveals more about how life emerged from the primordial ether of the universe. Bennu is “a fossil snapshot of some of the most primitive materials in the solar system,” Michael Wong, an astrobiologist at Carnegie Science Center, told Gizmodo shortly after the samples arrived on Earth. “But a little time passed between its formation and its freezing and ceasing to develop as a planetary body.”

Because of this window of change, Bennu also holds some clues about how similar ancient rocky bodies evolved. Further analysis of the samples — scientists only opened the darn can last month — will certainly reveal more.

more: Saturn’s moon Enceladus is burping up a key ingredient for life

(Tags for translation)NASA

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