Water is one of the essential elements for life. On our Planet and probably also elsewhere in the Universe. And the researchers in charge of analyzing the Bennu samples brought back to Earth a few months ago are now arguing that the asteroid could come, precisely, from an ancient world covered in oceans.
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Last September, teams from NASA’s Osiris-Rex mission recovered samples from the asteroid Bennu. Much more than was initially planned. With the dual objective of understanding how our Solar System was formed and how life appeared on Earth.
Bennu’s samples are unique!
Just a few days after the recovery, NASA announced that initial analyzes of the samples revealed large quantities of water locked in mineralsminerals Of type claysclays. The samples also appeared rich in carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorusphosphorus. Enough to imagine that asteroids like Bennu could have played a determining role in the transport of essential ingredients for life to our Planet.
Since then, laboratories around the world have started to study these samples in depth to learn a little more. The University of Arizona (United States) was the first to receive its share. Only about 200 milligrams. But the researchers will present their results during the 55e Lunar and Planetary Science Conference which will be held next month in Texas. And already, they are delivering some of their discoveries.
They thus teach us that the samples they analyzed are different from those which make up their collection of meteoritesmeteorites. They indeed present a crustcrust phosphate rich in calciumcalcium and in magnesiummagnesium never seen on any piece of asteroid that has ended its course on Earth. And the astronomersastronomers offer an explanation. Bennu could be a fragment of an ancient world covered in oceans!
Samples that point towards a world covered in oceans
The idea comes from what they know aboutEnceladusEnceladusthere moonmoon of SaturnSaturn. It hides, under its icy crust, an immense ocean. And it is rich in phosphatesphosphates. Much more than the oceans of our Earth. So even if the hypothesis is still only a hypothesis, the researchers consider it to be the best they have to explain the phosphate found in the Bennu samples.