Astonishing: Asteroid Bennu Could Be a Fragment of an Ancient Oceanic World

Published by Adrien - 13 days ago
Source: NASA

NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission, after a seven-year journey, has resulted in the collection of samples from the asteroid Bennu, promising to unveil secrets about the formation of our solar system. These samples, after traveling millions of miles through space, landed on Earth on September 24, 2023, opening a new window into our cosmic past.

View of the OSIRIS-REx's Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) head, with the cover removed, revealing the significant samples of asteroid Bennu inside.
Credit: NASA/Erika Blumenfeld/Joseph Aebersold

Scientists at the University of Arizona, leading the analysis of these asteroid fragments, are already uncovering unprecedented elements. With more than 1,000 particles studied, some exceeding half an inch, these samples are filled with clues about the materials constituting the planets in our solar system. Rich in water, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus, these samples could revolutionize our understanding of life's origins on Earth and beyond.

The University of Arizona's Kuiper Laboratory is the stage for these discoveries, where researchers utilize cutting-edge instruments to analyze these particles down to the atomic scale. One of the most startling findings is the presence of a phosphate crust never before observed in terrestrial meteorites. This characteristic suggests that Bennu could be a fragment of an ancient extraterrestrial oceanic world, possibly offering clues about the existence of conditions conducive to life elsewhere in the Universe.

The OSIRIS-REx mission goes beyond enriching our meteorite collection; it allows us to establish connections with other asteroids and deepen our understanding of the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter. The findings of this mission will be presented at the 55th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, revealing to the world the hidden stories in these cosmic dust grains.
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