LPL Colloquium: Dr. Dante Lauretta

Unlocking the Secrets of the Solar System: OSIRIS-REx and the Bennu Samples


3:45 to 4:45 p.m., Jan. 16, 2024


Dr. Dante Lauretta
Regents Professor
University of Arizona

The OSIRIS-REx mission's sample return from asteroid Bennu was a watershed moment in planetary science. Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid, serves as a vestige from the early solar system, potentially harboring primordial material untouched by the processes that shaped planets. The samples from Bennu provide an unparalleled opportunity to study this ancient material in granular detail, offering transformative insights into a host of scientific questions.

Our analyses focus on evaluating the mineralogical and organic composition of the samples, comparing them to meteoritic material, and assessing their potential implications for our understanding of solar system formation and evolution. Special attention is given to the presence of volatile compounds and prebiotic molecules that could shed light on the conditions that make celestial bodies habitable and possibly hospitable for life.

Moreover, this research aims to explore the fundamental chemical pathways that these compounds may have undergone, offering clues to the potential origin of life. Through advanced analysis, we seek to understand the extent of asteroidal contributions to Earth's volatile budget and the larger geochemical cycles in our solar system.

These findings will not only deepen our understanding of solar system dynamics but also serve as a cornerstone for interdisciplinary research, fostering new avenues in astrobiology, cosmochemistry, and beyond.

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