Asteroid heading for Earth reveals its most exciting secret yet

Bennu could be from an ancient oceanic world (Picture: Getty/iStockphoto)

Bennu is a gift that keeps on giving, and now a new discovery has suggested the asteroid may have come from an ancient oceanic world – that could have been home to alien life.

In September, Nasa’s Osiris-REx mission delivered a sample of the asteroid after a seven-year trip to the space rock, which could collide with Earth next century.

However, it took researchers three months to get the lid off the sample after two screws became stuck

After successfully opening the capsule and analysing the contents, researchers from the University of Arizona have now found evidence to suggest the asteroid may have come from a long since destroyed planet in our solar system.

One that could have harboured conditions favourable for life. 

‘My working hypothesis is that this was an ancient ocean world,’ said Professor Dante Lauretta, the mission’s principal investigator.

The initial analysis determined Bennu was rich in water and carbon, but after a closer look, the scientists realised some rocks were coated in a thin crust of a brighter material. 

Speaking to’s sister publication New Scientist, Professor Lauretta said the coating is a rare calcium and magnesium-rich phosphate mineral.

A tiny sample of the asteroid (Picture: PA)

Bennu: the lowdown

Discovered September 11, 1999

Type B-Type Asteroid (from the volatile-rich remnants from the early solar system)

Diameter Around 500 metres (1,614 feet)

Orbital timeframe 1.2 Earth Years

Length of day 4.288 hours

Mass 85.5 million tons

Temperature 116C to -100C

Will it hit Earth? Yes! Well, possibly, in around 150 years

While Professor Lauretta has never seen it before, the same material has also been found on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, which is believed to have a swirling ocean of liquid salty water beneath its icy crust. 

The team also found traces of the mineral serpentine, formed when rock from below the Earth’s crust is pushed up into a seabed and exposed to water.

From these findings, Professor Lauretta suggested that Bennu was once part of an ocean world in the early solar system, and was around half as big as Enceladus.

However, he stressed that while a oceanic world would be a good place for life to start, he wasn’t claiming to have found evidence of alien life.

You might be wondering why a piece of rock from an ocean-rich world is now aimlessly floating through space. This is because the original world, known as a planetesimal, would have been destroyed in a collision during the solar system’s messy and violent formation.

Now asteroid Bennu, located a mere 75 million miles away, is orbiting the Sun – and one day, possibly on Tuesday, September 24, 2182, could collide with Earth.

MORE : Nasa may have found ‘building blocks of life’ on asteroid Bennu

MORE : Nasa has finally cracked its way into $1,000,000,000 asteroid sample

MORE : This asteroid filled with gold is worth more than everything on Earth put together


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.