“Scientists have eagerly awaited the opportunity to dig into the 4.3-ounce (121.6-gram) pristine asteroid Bennu sample collected by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission since it was delivered to Earth last fall. They hoped the material would hold secrets of the solar system’s past and the prebiotic chemistry that might have led to the origin of life on Earth. An early analysis of the Bennu sample, published June 26 in Meteoritics & Planetary Science, demonstrates this excitement was warranted.

The OSIRIS-REx Sample Analysis Team found that Bennu contains the original ingredients that formed our solar system. The asteroid’s dust is rich in carbon and nitrogen, as well as organic compounds, all of which are essential components for life as we know it. The sample also contains magnesium-sodium phosphate, which was a surprise to the research team, because it wasn’t seen in the remote sensing data collected by the spacecraft at Bennu. Its presence in the sample hints that the asteroid could have splintered off from a long-gone, tiny, primitive ocean world.”

From NASA.