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The search heats up for the source of Earth’s water

Thursday, November 4, 2021

As space missions have begun returning samples from near-Earth asteroids, cosmochemists are looking forward to analyze them with SIMS instruments.

Interviewed by NATURE, cosmochemists Jessica Barnes and Tom Zega from the Lunar & Planetary laboratory at University of Arizona, USA and Laurette Piani from CRPG Nancy, France tell us how in-situ isotopic measurements of extra-terrestrial samples with Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry can help answer key questions such as the origin of Earth’s water.
“Analysis of returned asteroid samples promise something meteorite analysis cannot. From decades of lab research into meteorites, we think we have a handle on Earth’s earliest history, but there is always a chance we have misunderstood a meteorite family’s origins, or misinterpreted the isotopic messages meteorites contain, Zega says. Putting pristine pieces of Bennu and Ryugu under a SIMS ion beam will offer a reality check. If the results align with predictions, it will help corroborate our entire understanding of Earth’s origins. Which could be the launchpad for understanding the origins of life itself. »

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