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Asteroid Bennu May Give Clues to Birth of Solar System

Bennu’s Journey is a 6-minute animated movie about NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, Asteroid Bennu, and the formation of our solar system. Born from the rubble of a violent collision, hurled through space for millions of years, Asteroid Bennu has had a tough life in a rough neighborhood – the early solar system. Bennu’s Journey shows what is known and what remains mysterious about the evolution of Bennu and the planets. By retrieving a sample of Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will teach us more about the raw ingredients of the solar system and our own origins.

 

Born from the rubble of a violent collision, hurled through space for millions of years and dismembered by the gravity of planets, asteroid Bennu had a tough life in a rough neighborhood: the early solar system. “Bennu’s Journey,” a new animation created at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, shows what’s known and what remains mysterious about the life of Bennu and the origin of the solar system.

“We are going to Bennu because we want to know what it has witnessed over the course of its evolution,” said Edward Beshore of the University of Arizona, Deputy Principal Investigator for NASA’s asteroid-sample-return mission OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security – Regolith Explorer). The mission will be launched toward Bennu in late 2016, arrive at the asteroid in 2018, and return a sample of Bennu’s surface to Earth in 2023. “Bennu’s experiences will tell us more about where our solar system came from and how it evolved. Like the detectives in a crime show episode, we’ll examine bits of evidence from Bennu to understand more completely the story of the solar system, which is ultimately the story of our origin.”

The video opens with an establishing shot of the galaxy and moves in to a nebula – a vast cloud of gas and dust ejected from the explosions of dying stars. From observations of other star-forming regions in our galaxy, scientists have a good idea of the basic outlines of how our solar system came to be, according to Beshore. As shown in the animation, a nearby exploding star disrupts material in the nebula, causing part of it to collapse under its own gravity and form a disk of material surrounding the infant Sun.

nebula_supernova

Was this the beginning of our Solar System? It seems there are a lot of assumptions being made. Perhaps after landing on the asteroid, we will know more.