Sunday, October 22, 2023

The "Beautiful" Asteroid Sample

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Science, Earth Science, Solar System, Cosmology, Computer Science

Ed Hessler

What a jog to the memory upon reading that the Osiris-Rex mission has returned after collecting a sample of surface materials on a tiny, moving dot in space, the asteroid Bennu. It is a long way from here, some 330 million km (205 million miles). It is a little longer than the Empire State and Eiffel Tower are tall (NASA graphic). The round trip took 3 years. 

The BBC has the best reporting I've seen. It is by science correspondent Jonathan Amos  Here are a few highlights but look at the full article..

--The Quick Look team found the sample "to be rich in carbon (life on this planet is carbon based) and water-laden minerals." We are the water planet.

--Amos discusses the hypothesis being tested "that carbon-rich (organic), water-rich asteroids similar to Bennu may have been involved in delivering key components to the young Earth system some 4.5 billion years ago. It's potentially how we got the water in our oceans and some of the compounds that were necessary to kick-start life."

--"Osiris-Rex principal investigator Dr Dante Lauretta highlighted the samples' water content held in clay minerals. He said "They have water locked inside their crystal structure. I want to stop and think about what that means. That water - that is how we think water got to the Earth. The reason that Earth is a habitable world - that we have oceans and lakes and rivers and rain - is because clay minerals, like the ones we're seeing from Bennu, landed on Earth 4.5 billion years ago.'"

--Amos included a CT scan generated physical model of particles which allows science to see inside them and the touch and grab landing video taken when the probe landed momentarily to collect a sample. There is also a photograph of the probe after it had landed in a Utah desert with a team of scientists looking at it.

--And looking ahead, Amos also reported that about 70% of the sample will be archived for future investigators who are quite likely to have better tools and ideas to examine and analyze the collected sample.

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