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Discovering an Asteroid's Secrets

Posted June 09, 2011 3:43 PM

NASA has announced a future mission that will include a new instrument to collect a sample of an asteroid and return it to Earth. Called the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer, or OTES for short, the instrument is being built at Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE). The device will analyze long-wavelength infrared light emitted from the asteroid to map the minerals on its surface. What do you see as the potential for this new exploration tool?

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Re: Discovering an Asteroid's Secrets

08/03/2011 12:42 PM

I would expect that the composition would be a little bit like a DNA strand in that it would indicate or at least imply its origin to some degree. But after billions of years of running into other mater, it might just be a rather homogeneous mixture of stuff.

I'm not sure the surface would be as interesting as the core. What we see when pieces fall to earth is just the core which can be stony or metallic or a mix. I can understand the metallic core being iron, but I'm not sure I've come to terms with where the stony types come from. In general, I would expect a lot of asteroids to be dirty ice. I suppose we will have to wait for the data.

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