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A boulder on Bennu. Photo: UofA/JHU-APL/York University

The asteroid Bennu has been orbiting the Sun not far from Earth, for about 1.75 million years, according to a recent study.

The big picture: By combining the new findings with data from a sample of the asteroid, researchers hope to learn more about the chaotic early days of our solar system and to figure out how Earth eventually gave rise to life.

What they found: The scientists behind a study in the journal Nature used images from NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission to Bennu to count craters on the asteroid's surface in order to estimate how long it has been in the inner solar system.

  • Older objects have had more time for craters to accumulate and counting the features on planetary surfaces is a longstanding technique.
  • "The amazing data collected by OSIRIS-REx at asteroid Bennu have allowed us to not just find impact craters across its surface, but to actually find and study the craters on the surfaces of boulders," Kevin Walsh said in a statement.

What's next: OSIRIS-REx nabbed a sample of the space rock that will be returned to Earth in 2023 and will offer more clues about Bennu's — and Earth's — past.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 5, 2021 - Science

White House lays out new planetary protection guidelines against human contamination

Mars as seen by the Curiosity rover. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The White House laid out a plan last week for updating long-held rules around how to protect the Moon, Mars and other bodies from human contamination.

Why it matters: If a space agency or private company is looking for life on Mars or another deep space object, it's key to be sure any microbes detected are actually native and didn't hitch a ride from Earth.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.