Read at Futurism
Scientists analyzing the samples brought back from the asteroid Bennu by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft have found evidence of carbon and water, which are considered the building blocks of life on Earth. The team lead behind the mission, Dante Lauretta, suggests that Bennu may have been part of an ancient ocean world billions of years ago. Lauretta's hypothesis is based on the presence of a rare calcium and magnesium-rich phosphate in Bennu's thin and bright crust, similar to material found on Saturn's moon Enceladus, which is believed to have a vast reservoir of liquid water beneath its icy shell. Other experts are tentatively agreeing with Lauretta's hypothesis.
"My working hypothesis is that this was an ancient ocean world," principal investigator Dante Lauretta, a planetary science professor at the University of Arizona, told New Scientist.
NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission to collect samples from the asteroid Bennu has been a success, exceeding NASA's original goal of 60 grams of samples. Lauretta's latest hypothesis about Bennu's past is based on unpublished results of a recent analysis. The similarities between the mineralogy of Bennu and Enceladus support the notion that Bennu may have been part of a larger space rock that resembled Enceladus. University of Washington postdoctoral researcher Fabian Klenner agrees with the hypothesis, highlighting the similarities between Bennu and Enceladus.
"There are indeed similarities between the mineralogy of Bennu and what has been found on Enceladus," University of Washington postdoctoral researcher Fabian Klenner told New Scientist.