Rock through the ages: Asteroid dust can unravel the secrets of Earth’s life. Science

IA few days later, a capsule containing soil samples from a distant asteroid will be released by a robotic spaceship and dropped into the Earth’s upper atmosphere. If all goes well, the container will safely parachute into the Omera test range in South Australia in December, ending a mission involving three billion miles across our solar system.

Scientists say – with the mystery of the information that water first appeared on our planet – scientists say – the returned information can help solve several big astronomical puzzles.

Martin Lee, a professor of astronomy at the University of Glasgow, said: “Asteroids are the undisputed building blocks of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago and this has made them very important to science.” . “

The Japanese probe Hayabusa 2 was launched six years ago and the asteroid was sent to Raigu in a trajectory that orbits the sun at a distance of 90 million to 131 million miles every 16 months. For 18 months, it conducted a 1,100-yard-wide survey of primitive stone before moving closer to its surface to collect most of the soil. The probe then fired its ion thrusters and began returning to Earth year-round.



Hayabusha 2 before the launch of 2014 Photo: Newscom / Alam

Lee and his colleagues will be among the first group of scientists to study the distribution of Ryugu soil samples – although this team does not need to do much. Geologist Luke Daly, a member of the University of Glasgow team, said, “We hope that with only a few millimeters in diameter, we will get only a few grains.” “However, we won’t know how much we’ll actually get until the Hayabusa capsules hit the deck: softly, we hope.”

Analyzing the composition of the asteroid’s surface from a few specs of soil sounds ambitious yet the Glasgow team is confident. They plan to use a device called atomic detection that allows researchers to identify individual atoms in a sample. Millions of individuals need to be numbered and analyzed in order to produce the smallest number of atoms.

“Basically, we’ll take a piece of clay and cover its outer surface with a laser,” Lee said. “In other words, we will explode its atoms one by one. And then each of these atoms will be measured to identify that element and determine its specific isotope.

“We will be able to reconstruct exactly where the atom was located in the sample, so we will get a three-dimensional picture of the atomic structure of our sample.”

The Japanese space agency, Jaxar engineers, are not yet sure how much material Hayabusha 2 has collected. Its predecessor mission, Hayabusa 1 – Hayabusa is a Perezrin Falken’s Japanese word – was plagued by engine failure and other technical problems in 2005, and its goal was to return very little material from the asteroid Itokawa.

Hayabsa 2 will have to bring back much more, although its specimens must first survive by returning to their earth. It will start when the soil-carrying capsule from Ryugu is released. Entering the atmosphere at a speed of 2,000,000 miles, it will sink to the ground six miles from Australia, set up a parachute and glide to the ground.

The samples will then be distributed to scientists around the world. “Apart from telling us what the early solar system was made of, they will also tell us what happens to rocks when they bombard the solar wind for billions of years – and it plays an important role in understanding the story of water in the solar system and most importantly on Earth,” Lee added.

Solar wind is a stream of protons and other subatomic particles emitted by the sun. Earth’s atmosphere gives us ield but particles in space unfortunately do not provide such protection on butter surfaces. “This bombing could cause water to rise above the asteroids,” Daly added. “Protons are basically hydrogen ions and can react with oxygen in rocks to form water molecules.”

Scientists are divided on the key question of how water first appeared on our planet. Did it come with all the other materials that our planet created 4..6 billion years ago or did the comet that crashed on our planet come much later?

Recent space probes – such as the Rosetta mission that visited Comet 67P / Churiyamov – Gerasimenko between 2014 and 2016 – have found water in this body. But it is not like the water of the earth. These extrinsic specimens contain high levels of deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen, not found in Earth’s water, and have led many scientists to conclude that our supply has been here since the beginning.

“However, it may be that these ancient comets were not the only source of water anywhere else in the solar system, and the most recent reservoirs have been formed by solar wind battering rocks on asteroids,” Lee said.

“The deuterium level in the water created there may be low and that would explain how our oceans have separate isotope-signed water. And, of course, studying the atoms from the rocks of the asteroid Raigad, which has been crushed by the solar wind for billions of years, may give us the answer. “

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