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NASA’s Probe Discovers Signs Of Water on Asteroid Bennu

OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from Bennu, entering the asteroid's gravitational pull and analyzing its terrain.

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Asteroid
This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. NASA

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has discovered ingredients for water on a relatively nearby skyscraper-sized asteroid, a rocky acorn-shaped object that may hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists said on Monday.

OSIRIS-REx, which flew last week within a scant 12 miles (19 km) of the asteroid Bennu some 1.4 million miles (2.25 million km) from Earth, found traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules — part of the recipe for water and thus the potential for life — embedded in the asteroid’s rocky surface.

The probe, on a mission to return samples from the asteroid to Earth for study, was launched in 2016. Bennu, roughly a third of a mile wide (500 meters), orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth. There is concern among scientists about the possibility of Bennu impacting Earth late in the 22nd century.

 

NASA, asteroid
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx. Flickr

 

“We have found the water-rich minerals from the early solar system, which is exactly the kind of sample we were going out there to find and ultimately bring back to Earth,” University of Arizona planetary scientist Dante Lauretta, the OSIRIS-REx mission’s principal investigator, said in a telephone interview.

Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago. Scientists believe asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth may have delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life, and atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could provide key evidence to support that hypothesis.

“When samples of this material are returned by the mission to Earth in 2023, scientists will receive a treasure trove of new information about the history and evolution of our solar system,” Amy Simon, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in a statement.

OSIRIS-REx, NASA, Asteroid
This illustration provided by NASA depicts the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at the asteroid Bennu. The rocky remnant from the dawn of the solar system may hold clues to the origins of life. VOA

“We’re really trying to understand the role that these carbon-rich asteroids played in delivering water to the early Earth and making it habitable,” Lauretta added.

OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from Bennu, entering the asteroid’s gravitational pull and analyzing its terrain. From there, the spacecraft will begin to gradually tighten its orbit around the asteroid, spiraling to within just 6 feet (2 meters) of its surface so its robot arm can snatch a sample of Bennu by July 2020.

Also Read: Wintertime Ice Growth in Arctic Sea Slows Long-Term Decline: NASA

The spacecraft will later fly back to Earth, jettisoning a capsule bearing the asteroid specimen for a parachute descent in the Utah desert in September 2023. (VOA)

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Study Reveals Solar Cells Can Retain Most Of Their Power Conversion Efficiency in Near Space

In the study, researchers from China's Peking University sent the devices fixed with PSCs into near space on a high-altitude balloon.

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solar energy
Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) are known for their potential of achieving higher efficiency and low production costs compared to traditional silicon solar cells. Pixabay

Chinese researchers have found that solar cells can retain most of their power conversion efficiency in near space, providing perspectives on the cells’ future application in space.

Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) are known for their potential of achieving higher efficiency and low production costs compared to traditional silicon solar cells.

These cells also have great potential for developing the new-generation energy technology for space application, but little research has been done to test the stability of PSCs in the extreme space environment, Xinhua news agency reported.

In the study, researchers from China’s Peking University sent the devices fixed with PSCs into near space on a high-altitude balloon.

energy
These cells also have great potential for developing the new-generation energy technology for space application, but little research has been done to test the stability of PSCs in the extreme space environment, Xinhua news agency reported. Piixabay

The balloon rose to near space at an altitude of 35 km, a region above Earth’s atmosphere where there is only a trace amount of moisture and ozone.

The region, considered to have “air mass zero” contains no atmospheric attenuation of solar radiation and therefore several high-energy particles and radiation, such as neutrons, electrons and gamma rays, originate from the galactic cosmic rays and solar flares.

solar cells
Chinese researchers have found that solar cells can retain most of their power conversion efficiency in near space, providing perspectives on the cells’ future application in space.
Pixabay

Also Read: Know About The Psychologists Team Helping To Prevent Farmers’ Suicides in Parts of Telangana

According to the findings, one type of PSCs used in the study retained more than 95 per cent of its initial power conversion efficiency during the test, the researchers reported in the journal Science China Physics, Mechanics and Astronomy.

They said the study is expected to play a crucial role in the future stability research of PSCs. (IANS)