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After NASA, London prepares to examine 4.6 billion-year-old dark dust from Bennu asteroid

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NASA’s Osiris-Rex mission stopped at asteroid Bennu in 2020 and returned samples to Earth in September. Following this historic feat, a teaspoon worth of dust and granules scooped from the Bennu asteroid has arrived at the Natural History Museum in London. 

The Bennu asteroid which is thought to be 4.6 billion years old, dates back to the dawn of the solar system. A sample of rock and dust retrieved from the asteroid Bennu contains water and carbon molecules, both building blocks for life as we know it, NASA chief Bill Nelson had said in October. 

Scientists are still not sure how much was grabbed from the carbon-rich asteroid named Bennu, almost 60 million miles (97 million km) away.

The spacecraft briefly touched down on Bennu, an asteroid that has a 1-in-1,750 chance of colliding with Earth in the next 300 years, and gathered more than 60g of untouched material, the largest amount brought back from space since the Apollo program, Guardian reported. 

The Bennu asteroid contains carbon, holds water in the form of water-bearing clay minerals, according to NASA scientists. 

In London, a key area for research for the scientists would be to analyse hydrogen isotopes in the water bound up in Bennu to see if any of it matches that found in Earth’s oceans.

Scientists believe the reason Earth has oceans, lakes and rivers is because it was hit with water-carrying asteroids 4 to 4.5 billion years ago, making it a habitable planet.

All life on Earth meanwhile is based on carbon, which forms bonds with other elements to produce proteins and enzymes as well as the building blocks of genetic code, DNA and RNA.

The first two years of research at the Natural History Museum will focus on non-destructive tests, such as X-ray diffraction and electron microscopy to learn about Bennu’s mineral composition and structure. The largest grains in the sample are on the order of millimetres wide, while the smallest are mere dust particles, the Guardian report adds. 

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Updated: 29 Nov 2023, 05:20 PM IST


NASA’s Osiris-Rex mission stopped at asteroid Bennu in 2020 and returned samples to Earth in September. Following this historic feat, a teaspoon worth of dust and granules scooped from the Bennu asteroid has arrived at the Natural History Museum in London. 

The Bennu asteroid which is thought to be 4.6 billion years old, dates back to the dawn of the solar system. A sample of rock and dust retrieved from the asteroid Bennu contains water and carbon molecules, both building blocks for life as we know it, NASA chief Bill Nelson had said in October. 

Scientists are still not sure how much was grabbed from the carbon-rich asteroid named Bennu, almost 60 million miles (97 million km) away.

The spacecraft briefly touched down on Bennu, an asteroid that has a 1-in-1,750 chance of colliding with Earth in the next 300 years, and gathered more than 60g of untouched material, the largest amount brought back from space since the Apollo program, Guardian reported. 

The Bennu asteroid contains carbon, holds water in the form of water-bearing clay minerals, according to NASA scientists. 

In London, a key area for research for the scientists would be to analyse hydrogen isotopes in the water bound up in Bennu to see if any of it matches that found in Earth’s oceans.

Scientists believe the reason Earth has oceans, lakes and rivers is because it was hit with water-carrying asteroids 4 to 4.5 billion years ago, making it a habitable planet.

All life on Earth meanwhile is based on carbon, which forms bonds with other elements to produce proteins and enzymes as well as the building blocks of genetic code, DNA and RNA.

The first two years of research at the Natural History Museum will focus on non-destructive tests, such as X-ray diffraction and electron microscopy to learn about Bennu’s mineral composition and structure. The largest grains in the sample are on the order of millimetres wide, while the smallest are mere dust particles, the Guardian report adds. 

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Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint.
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Updated: 29 Nov 2023, 05:20 PM IST

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