June 17, 2024

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Scientists are surprised by samples extracted from the ancient asteroid

Scientists are surprised by samples extracted from the ancient asteroid

“It’s kind of like a Schrödinger sample.”

Technical difficulties

NASA scientists are doing their best to examine samples from an asteroid dating back to the dawn of our solar system, and what they’ve found so far is remarkable.

as magazine nature Reports In a news brief, there was some very strange asteroid dust collected from NASA’s first sample return mission to the asteroid Bennu — but researchers haven’t been able to fully test it yet, because two screws high in the tech canister still won’t budge.

After landing at the end of September, the OSIRIS-REx capsule that collected dust samples from ancient Bennu proved problematic because two of its 35 case screws became stuck. Although scientists have been able to extract more than 70 grams of space dust so far, there is more they can’t access.

“It’s a bit like a Schrödinger sample,” joked Dante Lauretta, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona who is heading the scientific analysis of OSIRIS-REx. nature. “We don’t know what’s out there.”

Sing the blues

As frustrating as it was as a Fort Knox-esque enclosure puzzle, what? he have The studies analyzed so far have provided some surprising results, although they have also left scientists with more questions than answers.

During a meeting of the American Geophysical Union held in San Francisco on December 11, Lauretta said that the Bennu samples that he and his team conducted early analyzes on are unique even to the naked eye. Most of the material is black, but some has a bluish sheen, while other, smaller fragments are light in color and reflective in such a way that they clash with other pebbles brought back by OSIRIS-REx.

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The UA planetary scientist explained that these light-colored pieces are magnesium, phosphate and sodium according to early analysis, and the bright, brittle outer layer cracks to reveal the dark rock underneath. Still Wilder: This combination is thought to be rare in asteroids, which makes it surprising, Lauretta says.

Also among the findings from Bennu’s early analyzes are what could be the building blocks of life: organic compounds containing carbon-carbon or carbon-hydrogen bonds. Meteorites found on Earth have similar compounds, and as… nature He explains that these carbon-rich minerals may have contributed to life on our planet.

Despite the technical difficulties, the Bennu samples are of great interest because, Lauretta says, they represent the first time NASA has been able to actually handle such ancient materials.

“This alone makes the whole mission worthwhile,” the scientist said. “We now have abundant pure materials.”

More about asteroids: Incredible new videos show NASA colliding with an asteroid