Dust collected from a speeding asteroid analyzed with massive accelerator

Dust collected from a speeding asteroid analyzed with massive accelerator

It’s not uncommon for scientists to bring interesting objects thousands of miles to Argonne National Laboratory for study. But it’s fair to say that the latest of these to land at the laboratory came from much, much farther away.

A team of scientists with Argonne and the University of Chicago is among the few groups around the world chosen to study tiny fragments of an asteroid. These dust particles came from 162173 Ryugu, part of a group of near-Earth objects called the Apollo asteroids. This asteroid’s orbit brings it within 60,000 miles-about a quarter of the distance to the moon-once every 16 months.

The fragments were collected by Hayabusa2, a mission operated by the Japanese space agency, JAXA.

These bits of rock are remarkably tiny-each is about 200 microns in diameter, about the size of three human hairs. But they carry with them information about how these asteroids were formed, and may tell us long-hidden secrets about the early days of the solar system, including Earth itself.

Argonne Distinguished Fellow Esen Ercan Alp is leading the research team using the ultra-bright X-rays of the Advanced Photon Source, a baseball-field-sized particle accelerator located at Argonne, to examine the asteroid samples. Alp and his colleagues worked for years to be included among the international group of scientists taking a first earthly look at these fragments.

“This is very exciting,” said Alp. “We’ve been preparing for this project for two years. We’ve been practicing our X-ray techniques on samples from meteorites that fell to Earth, but they were just a rehearsal for the real thing.”

The Advanced Photon Source is the only U.S. facility chosen to study these fragments, and according to Alp, that’s because of a particular X-ray technique he and his team specialize in: Mossbauer spectroscopy. Named after German physicist Rudolf Mossbauer, this technique is highly sensitive to tiny changes in the chemistry of samples, and it allows scientists to determine the chemical composition of these fragments particle by particle. It is a technique Argonne has been developing since the 1960s, and the laboratory is a world leader in its use.

Over an initial series of observations in June and July, the team-which includes beamline scientist Barbara Lavina of the University of Chicago and Argonne and physicist Jiyong Zhao-took readings of 25 different spots on these fragments using X-ray scattering methods at beamline 3-ID-B at the Advanced Photon Source. In September, the fragments will return to Argonne and the team will take more extensive readings using Mossbauer spectroscopy techniques.

Lavina, whose background is in geology, is particularly excited by the chance to study rocks that are literally not of this earth and would not have survived a journey to Earth if not safely stored in a spacecraft.

She noted that the technique the team used is designed to closely investigate the state of iron in samples like these.

“Iron is amongst the finest record-keepers of a rock’s history,” Lavina said. “We will have a unique chance to unravel a key piece of the puzzle that is the formation and evolution of our solar system.”

The thrill of being among the first to even see these asteroid fragments is only amplified by their fantastic voyage from deep space. Just getting the Hayabusa2 module to 162173 Ryugu took more than three years. The module landed on the asteroid in June 2018 and proceeded to survey it for a year and a half.

As part of that mission, the lander deployed a kinetic penetrator, a small explosive device that broke the asteroid’s surface, stirring up rocks and dust that were then collected.

In November 2019, the Hayabusa2 rocket left the asteroid’s orbit, and it returned its precious cargo to Earth in December 2020. Though that was the farthest leg of the fragments’ journey to Argonne, it may not have been the most perilous: eight of these tiny samples were placed into a box and sent via Federal Express from Japan to Illinois.

“We were watching the tracking information pretty closely,” joked Lavina. (The samples did arrive safely.)

The results of the Argonne team’s work are under wraps, and won’t be revealed until a paper is prepared and published. The asteroid fragments, meanwhile, have been sent to another scientific facility, this one in Europe, where another research team will get a chance to observe them.

Alp and his colleagues are anticipating a second opportunity to learn more about these otherworldly objects and to put their well-honed X-ray techniques into practice.

“It’s very significant to be a part of an international endeavor such as this,” Alp said. “Our first round was quite successful, but we are just beginning.”

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related

OTHER NEWS

A world without access to space

Over the last several years we have been yelling and screaming about the existential threat of space debris on our ability to conduct space commerce, but the world is not ... Read more »

NASA looks beyond SpaceX, Boeing contracts for space station commutes

NASA posted a formal request on a government website Wednesday, seeking companies that could provide astronaut transportation vehicles to the International Space Station by 2027. SpaceX has provided such transport ... Read more »

Major step in UK contribution to space mission to study solar wind

Space scientists from the University of Leicester have delivered a key component for a new mission to study the impact of the solar wind on Earth’s magnetic field. Engineers from ... Read more »

New galaxy images reveal a fitful start to the Universe

New images have revealed detailed clues about how the first stars and structures were formed in the Universe and suggest the formation of the Galaxy got off to a fitful ... Read more »

Rocket Lab to recover Electron Rocket, introduce helicopter support operations

Rocket Lab USA reports it will attempt a controlled ocean splashdown and recovery of the first stage of an Electron rocket during the company’s next launch in November. The mission ... Read more »

SpaceX conducts 2 test firings of Starship 20 in Texas

SpaceX conducted two engine test firings of its Starship 20 prototype rocket at its facility near Brownsville, Texas, on Thursday The launch vehicle, a part of SpaceX’s plans to travel ... Read more »

Studying the edge of the Sun's magnetic bubble

Our corner of the universe, the solar system, is nestled inside the Milky Way galaxy, home to more than 100 billion stars. The solar system is encased in a bubble ... Read more »

NEID Spectrometer Lights Up Path to Exoplanet Exploration

As NASA expands its quest to discover exoplanets – planets beyond our solar system – it also grows its toolbox. Over the summer, a new tool called NEID (pronounced NOO-id) ... Read more »

In-Orbit cloud computing and storage platform successfully demonstrated

Space transportation and logistics company D-Orbit has successfully completed the orbital testing of Nebula, a cloud platform designed to provide distributed high-performance data analytics computing and storage capabilities in space. ... Read more »

From Polar Bears to Polar Orbits

Alaska is known for its polar bears, rugged landscapes, expansive areas and remoteness. Alaska is not the first place people envision when they think of rocket launches. However, Alaska is ... Read more »

South Korea launches own space rocket for the first time

South Korea launched its first domestically developed space rocket on Thursday, carrying a 1.5-tonne payload into orbit it seeks to join the ranks of advanced space-faring nations. The Korea Space ... Read more »

NASA is returning to Venus

NASA has selected two missions, dubbed DAVINCI+ and VERITAS, to study the “lost habitable” world of Venus. Each mission will receive approximately US$500 million for development and both are expected ... Read more »

Giant comet found in outer solar system by Dark Energy Survey

A giant comet from the outskirts of our Solar System has been discovered in 6 years of data from the Dark Energy Survey. Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is estimated to be about ... Read more »

Laser solid-phase synthesis of single atom catalysts

Laser fabrication of nanoparticles offers a powerful and flexible alternative to the purely chemical approaches. In recent years, laser synthesized precious metal nanoparticles are becoming increasingly important in catalysis due ... Read more »

Climate model shows that Venus could never have had oceans

Whether Venus, one of the Solar System’s four terrestrial planets, ever had oceans remains an unsolved puzzle. Although an American study hypothesized that it did, this is now challenged in ... Read more »

U.S. needs nuclear spacecraft to compete with China, NASA official says

NASA and U.S. aerospace experts urged Congress on Wednesday to invest more quickly and heavily in development of nuclear-powered spacecraft Wednesday to stay ahead of such competitors as China. The ... Read more »

AMOS' compact hyperspectral instrument "ELOIS" to onboard a microsatellite soon

AMOS and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed a contract to build and qualify a first flight model of an advanced compact hyperspectral imager designed by AMOS and called ... Read more »

Russian film crew says shooting in space a 'huge challenge'

Their movie props floated around and they used Velcro to keep objects in place but Russia’s first film crew in space said they were delighted with the result and had ... Read more »

China describes hypersonic test as a space vehicle trial

The Financial Times earlier reported that the test of the alleged hypersonic glider vehicle by China this summer “caught the US government by surprise” as it purportedly demonstrated the great ... Read more »

Conclusions from Satellite Constellations 2 Released

The Satellite Constellations 2 (SATCON2) workshop, held 12-16 July 2021, brought together more than 350 astronomers, satellite operators, dark-sky advocates, policy experts, and other stakeholders from 40 countries to discuss ... Read more »

Test conducted to verify spacecraft technology, FM says

The Chinese space test that drew great attention was made to verify reusable spacecraft technologies, not to test a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, as some foreign media claimed, the Foreign Ministry ... Read more »

China says recent test was spacecraft not missile

China on Monday denied a report it had recently launched a hypersonic missile, saying it tested a spacecraft to trial reusable technologies. The Financial Times reported Saturday that Beijing had ... Read more »

China's longest-yet crewed space mission impressive, expert says

China’s Shenzhou XIII crewed spaceship successfully docked with the port of the space station core module Tianhe on Saturday, a move overseas experts have called another “key step” forward in ... Read more »

Over half OneWeb constellation now deployed

Arianespace has successfully performed Soyuz Flight ST36. This latest launch for OneWeb’s placed 36 more satellites into orbit. ST36 represents an important step in OneWeb and Arianespace’s partnership: the operator ... Read more »

Chinese astronaut bridges gender gap

China’s landmark six-month journey in space has left many curious about the differences between male and female astronauts. Wang Yaping, a 41-year-old female astronaut from Shandong province in East China, ... Read more »

Humidity caused corrosion of Starliner capsule valves, Boeing, NASA say

Humid Florida air may have caused valves to stick in Boeing’s Starliner space capsule during preparation for a test launch Aug. 3, causing further delay in NASA’s astronaut launch program, ... Read more »

NASA selects Gamma-ray Telescope to Chart Milky Way evolution

NASA has selected a new space telescope proposal that will study the recent history of star birth, star death, and the formation of chemical elements in the Milky Way. The ... Read more »

Dwarf galaxy catches globular cluster

Astronomers already knew that our own Milky Way grew by taking in smaller galaxies. But now a team of Italian-Dutch researchers have shown that a small galaxy neighbouring the Milky ... Read more »

How the Sun Affects Asteroids in Our Neighborhood

Asteroids embody the story of our solar system’s beginning. Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which orbit the Sun on the same path as the gas giant, are no exception. The Trojans are ... Read more »

One in three young kids uses social media, use of parental controls spotty

One out of three children ages 7 to 9 use some form of social media, according to the results of a national poll released Monday. In addition, nearly half of ... Read more »

Highly porous rocks responsible for Bennu's surprisingly craggy surface

Scientists thought asteroid Bennu’s surface would be like a sandy beach, abundant in fine sand and pebbles, which would have been perfect for collecting samples. Past telescope observations from Earth’s ... Read more »

Is Planetary Defense PI in the Sky?

In February of 2013, skywatchers around the world turned their attention toward asteroid 2012 DA14, a cosmic rock about 150 feet (50 meters) in diameter that was going to fly ... Read more »

US firm sees 'exciting' moment as space tourism booms

As competition in space tourism heats up, one of the first companies to offer space travel to fee-paying customers is launching a comeback by blasting into orbit with a Japanese ... Read more »

Russia's Soyuz spacecraft lands in Kazakhstan after ISS mission

A Soyuz MS-18 space capsule with a cosmonaut and two Russian filmmakers landed in Kazakhstan on Sunday after a 3 1/2-hour trip from the International Space Station. The capsule landed ... Read more »

Researchers call for armchair astronomers to help find unknown hidden worlds

Astronomers at Queen’s University Belfast have launched a new online initiative, calling for volunteers to come forward and help to search for extrasolar planets. The online citizen project, hosted by ... Read more »

Laser Communications Relay Demonstration gears up for launch

NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) is gearing up for launch this fall, no earlier than Nov. 22. The payload arrived in Florida in May, fully integrated into its host ... Read more »

Astronomers see white dwarf switch on and off

White dwarfs are what most stars become after burning off the hydrogen that fuels them. Now our astronomers have seen one of these galactic objects switching on and off for ... Read more »

Concrete: the world's 3rd largest CO2 emitter

If concrete were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases on Earth, behind only China and the United States. How can this material, essential for ... Read more »

Three hours to save Integral

On 22 September, around midday, ESA’s Integral spacecraft went into emergency Safe Mode. One of the spacecraft’s three active ‘reaction wheels’ had turned off without warning and stopped spinning, causing ... Read more »

Russian rocket tests briefly destabilise space station

The International Space Station was briefly destabilised Friday during tests of a Russian-made Soyuz rocket, but the crew and the orbital station were not in danger, Moscow said. Russia’s Roscosmos ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic