Recovery team members prepare the sample return capsule from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission for transport to the cleanroom, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, shortly after the capsule landed at the Department of Defense’s Utah Test and Training Range. The sample was collected from the asteroid Bennu in October 2020 by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft

Rock and dust from asteroid Bennu offers unprecedented opportunity to study origins of the solar system, cosmologist says

The recovery of 8.8 ounces of rock and dust from the asteroid Bennu on Sunday is a scientific game changer, says Northeastern physics professor and cosmologist Jacqueline McCleary.

She says researchers now have evidence from the formation of the solar system literally at their fingertips.

“The thing that’s most exciting to me is scientists getting to touch the material,” says McCleary. She says astrophysicists typically use images from powerful telescopes to study everything from the formation of the solar system to galaxy clusters and the nature of dark matter.

“As an astronomer, I ask, ‘What can these pixels tell me? What can these pictures tell me?’ so I can extrapolate backwards.”

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Photo by NASA/Keegan Barber

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