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OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample: Clues to Life's Origins

OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample: Clues to Life's Origins

NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission successfully returned 121.6 grams of asteroid Bennu. Initial analysis indicates that the sample is abundant in carbon, nitrogen, and organic compounds—essential elements for life as we understand it. The sample also contains pristine magnesium-sodium phosphate, a first for any meteorite.

Bennu's composition suggests a history involving water, possibly originating from a small, ancient oceanic world. This discovery prompts questions about how these elements aggregated and provides insights into Bennu's past.

The asteroid's elements closely match those of the Sun, remaining unchanged since the formation of the solar system. This makes Bennu a time capsule, offering a window into the early solar system and potentially the prebiotic chemistry that preceded life on Earth.

Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx, highlights the significance of studying these materials, which are vital for understanding the solar system's formation and the origins of life.

In the coming years, various laboratories will analyze Bennu's sample, anticipating further insights into the origins and evolution of Earth-like planets.

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