Astrochemistry and Origins
On October 21st, 2020, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft succeeded in touching asteroid Bennu to collect samples from the surface. Launched in September 2016 and in orbit since December 2018, it was doing a detailed survey of the surface to map and select the best sample collection site. OSIRIS-REx will deliver the samples to Earth in September 2023.
How to measure and visualize in 3D the composition and structure of a micrometric extraterrestrial grain without destroying it? Researchers from the "Astrochemistry and Origin" team of the IAS and from the SOLEIL synchrotron, in collaboration with two Japanese laboratories, have shown that this is possible. Coupling IR and X-ray micro-tomography the scientist analyzed samples from the asteroid Itokawa, collected by the Hayabusa probe (JAXA).
Frozen surfaces of small bodies in the outer Solar System are exposed to cosmic and solar energetic ions. Thanks to laboratory experiments, scientists from the “Astrochemistry and Origins” team at IAS and the Florida Space Institute (USA) estimated the alterations induced by ion irradiation on the methanol-rich surfaces of such objects.
Although there are evidences of relationships between the most primitive bodies of the solar system and differentiated planetary bodies with a metallic core, no sample has been found up to now that bears information on the onset of planetary differentiation. Researchers have recently described a volcanic rock produced by extremely limited partial melting of a parent body chemically similar to the most primitive meteorites (carbonaceous chondrites) and crystallized upon ascent toward the surface of the body. This sample proves that some carbonaceous bodies from the outer solar system are partially differentiated and is the missing link in a continuum between comets and iron meteorites from metallic planetary cores.
A multidisciplinary team involving researchers from the IAS, CSNSM and SOLEIL SMIS/beam line, has characterized in the laboratory the organic component from exceptional organic-rich interplanetary dust particles, i.e. Ultra-Carbonaceous MicroMeteorites (UCAMMs).