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Asteroid Bennu may answer long sought questions, some South Florida researchers say

Celestial discovery from asteroid eyed by researchers
Celestial discovery from asteroid eyed by researchers 02:17

MIAMI -- When the capsule from the OSIRIS-REx space craft touched down Sunday on Earth, Alessandro Peca, a University of Miami astro physics grad student was paying attention

"That is super, super exciting," he said, adding that the half-pound of rocks and space dust collected from the asteroid before it was sealed could hold a lot of answers to some very big questions. "Right now we believe there is some sort of life there, but we don't have proof of that. Proof can come from these materials."


Dr. Doug Roberts, CEO of Frost Science and an astrophysicist, said the findings could answer questions.

"Absolutely!" he said. "That's the kind of cool thing when you have a new mission that's bringing a new window in the universe. You know there's going to be new discoveries we can only guess at." 

He watched the landing and told CBS News Miami that the material brought from outer space was pristine, unlike the meteorites we study that have fallen to earth.

"This one is melted and came through our atmosphere and was sitting around on the ground a long time and interacting with our atmosphere," he said pointing out a meteorite in the Frost Science Museum. "Whereas the one there hasn't been changed in 4-and-a-half billion years since the solar system was born."

Roberts said it could help researchers understand how the Earth and our solar system were formed.

"It's so exciting to have a mission that goes to touch some place or explore some place you've never touched before," he said.

This is a mission that ignites the imagination.

"This is pretty big," Peca said. "This can change our perception of the universe (and) our role in the universe because as a matter of fact we are just a tiny little dot in a huge universe."

Scientists will be able to study the asteroid for years to come. 

About 60 percent of the material that was collected is going to be held so scientists at a future date can take a look with new technology.

Frost Planetarium plans to discuss the mission at shows with in the next few weeks. They're also planning a display with pictures and video of the mission.

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