Origins of the Earth, risks of impact… Why the study of this piece of asteroid sent to France… – BFMTV

Since November, the Center for Research on Heteroepitaxy and its Applications has hosted 100 mg samples collected by NASA on the asteroid Bennu. Research on these fragments should make it possible to learn more about the formation of the solar system.

A piece of an asteroid in Valbonne in the Alpes-Maritimes. The Center for Research on Heteroepitaxy and its Applications (CHREA), a laboratory under the supervision of the CNRS and the University of Côte d’Azur, welcomed on November 9, 2023 a 100 mg sample collected from the asteroid Bennu. According to NASA, it is 4.5 billion years old and is at an orbital distance of 168 million kilometers from the Sun.

The American space agency collected this material during its Osiris-Rex mission and returned the sample at the end of September. NASA has distributed fractions to several laboratories around the world, including CHREA.

A chance”

This is an important event in several ways. First, the reported quantity makes it “the largest carbon-rich asteroid sample ever delivered to Earth,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in October.

Then, says Patrick Michel, astrophysicist and research director at CNRS, “it’s quite extraordinary because it’s already very rare that we can get samples from an asteroid in situ.” “In general, we analyze meteorites, which are fragments of asteroids , when they arrive on Earth,” continues the scientist from the Côte d’Azur Observatory.

“This time we will look for it” and “we are lucky to have access to around a hundred milligrams of these samples,” he enthuses on BFMTV.

Exploring the origins of the earth

Research on these fragments will enable the observation of a “time capsule that will provide us with a profound insight into the formation of our solar system,” Osiris-Rex principal investigator Dante Lauretta explained in October. According to Patrick Michel, they could help to understand whether asteroids brought life to Earth.

“The first analyzes show that we have carbon, organic material and this water that we are looking for, because (…) that at the end of the Earth’s formation, according to the scenarios, there were many impacts and these.” “Impacts could do that provide the water that forms our oceans and the organic matter that allowed life to emerge,” he explained on BFMTV.

How to fend off asteroids

These samples should also make it possible to “learn how asteroids are made,” emphasized Michel Tognini, French astronaut of the European Space Agency (ESA), on Wednesday December 27 on BFMTV. In October, NASA announced that its initial analyzes showed “evidence of high carbon and water content.”

This knowledge is important because “one day we may have the obligation and duty to intercept an asteroid to divert it from the Earth’s trajectory, since we have been hit by asteroids very often,” explains Michel Tognini. “And so these effects will continue into the future,” notes the astronaut.

“Our duty to us Earthlings is to do everything we can to protect ourselves from these impacts, which can be deadly and extremely damaging to our ecology,” he adds.

Enough to understand that the arrival of this small sample represents an important event for the Nice researchers. “The delivery man, when he arrived, didn’t really understand why he was being filmed, he had no idea what he was carrying,” Vincent Guigoz, a postdoctoral researcher working on the project, told Le Figaro.

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