Mysterious 'black dust' stops scientists from investigating 'dangerous' asteroid that landed on Earth
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Featured Image Credit: NASA
A mysterious ‘black dust’ has stopped scientists who’ve been investigating a ‘dangerous’ asteroid to halt their investigation.
Experts at NASA had been about to open the Osiris-Rex capsule when they discovered the strange residue on the probe.
Whilst it sounds like something out of science-fiction, the ‘dust’ has forced scientists to delay opening the device, which contained samples from the Bennu asteroid.
Originally blasting off in 2016, the Osiris-Rex spacecraft set out to collect samples from the Bennu asteroid – which is as tall as the Empire State Building.
As the spacecraft returned to Earth after seven years floating about space, it jettisoned the precious cargo with the capsule safely landing in the Utah desert on 24 September, reportedly getting a few cheers from the military base.
The capsule in question has collected almost nine ounces of rocks, dust and space-dirt from the asteroid.
According to NASA, the Touch and Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) was covered in a mysterious ‘black dust and debris’.
A spokesperson for NASA later explained that the dust would now be investigated before scientists open the capsule.
They told press: “Scientists and engineers removed the lid and saw black dust and debris on the surfaces of the avionics deck and TAGSAM. This dust will undergo a quick-look analysis to determine if it is in fact material from the asteroid Bennu.”
Adding: “When the TAGSAM is separated from the canister, it will be inserted in a sealed transfer container to preserve a nitrogen environment for up to about two hours. This container allows enough time for the team to insert the TAGSAM into another unique glovebox.
"Ultimately, this speeds up the disassembly process. There is a very high level of focus from the team — the sample will be revealed with an amazing amount of precision to accommodate delicate hardware removal so as not to come into contact with the sample inside."
Whilst it’s a bitter blow for scientists, they still hope that the sample will provide important information about how life on Earth began – as well as provide more information about any asteroids that could come into contact with our planet.
In addition, the sample will allow experts to understand what the asteroid is made of – which could be essential as there's a 1-in-2,700 chance it will whizz past the Earth between the years of 2175 and 2199.
So, while it's not going to be here for a while, humanity may need to make possible deterrents depending on how close Bennu comes to the Earth.