Researchers at University of Arizona to study asteroid sample

Researchers at University of Arizona to study asteroid sample
Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 3:45 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Researchers at the University of Arizona are preparing for their next big space study.

This September, the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft will drop a capsule of rock and dust collected from a moving asteroid.

NASA is set to release only 25% of this sample and researchers at the University of Arizona are excited to be a part of it.

With this sample, researchers hope to learn more about the origin of our planet, space, and beyond.

“It gives us insight into our origins. What is the history and the origin of the solar system?” Thomas Zega, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory professor at the university said of the upcoming research. “Meteorites are always falling down from space and we can collect these here from earth. But, once they sit on the surface they get weathered. They get rained on, they get eroded, and those processes can affect what we see in the sample.”

This specific sample is monumental because they know exactly where it’s coming from and it’s in the perfect condition to be studied.

“We don’t know which asteroids these come from,” Zega said. “We don’t have provenance for these meteorites. Missions like OSIRIS-Rex provide that key link.”

In preparation for this sample, Zega and his team has been studying the asteroid for a long time.

“We’ve even mapped an image of that asteroid because for several years we’ve sampled it. We were orbiting around it, imaging it. So we know exactly where this sample comes from. We know it’s special relationships in the broadest sense,” he said.

This research will be done in labs on campus breaking it down all the way to a microscopic level to get to the core of this asteroid. The Kuiper Materials Imaging & Characterization Facility provides access to a variety of materials for both the University of Arizona and other scientists.

NASA said the remainder of the capsule will be kept for future generations to study to better understand the origin of our planet.

NASA expects to release pictures of these findings in early October.

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