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Home » How Asteroid Hunters Are Solving Earth’s Greatest Mysteries: Dante Lauretta (Transcript)

How Asteroid Hunters Are Solving Earth’s Greatest Mysteries: Dante Lauretta (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Professor Dante Lauretta’s talk titled “How Asteroid Hunters Are Solving Earth’s Greatest Mysteries” at TEDxUArizona 2024 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


Today, I want you to join me on a journey. It’s a journey to answer some of the deepest questions that we ask ourselves as the human species. Where did we come from and how did the Earth come to be a habitable world? When we go back to the dawn of the solar system and we reconstruct the events early in the stages of the formation of Earth, we recognize that it was a hot, hellish, hazardous environment, constantly bombarded by fragments from outer space.

One of those fragments was so large, it spalled off a chunk of material that accreted into our moon. And when we look at the geologic record from that era, we realize there’s no way that life as we know it would have taken hold in such an environment. And so we ask ourselves, where did the Earth get the key components for life? When we look at the Earth today, we think of it as this beautiful blue jewel in the solar system, covered in oceans, clouds and rains and rivers running across the continents.

Perfect abode for the myriad of life forms we share this planet with. And we wonder, where did that water come from that makes up our oceans? Where were the molecules that make up the air that we breathe? And most importantly, where did the carbon come from that is the central element to all life on Earth?

Asteroids as Key to Life on Earth

And when we look out into the solar system, out beyond Mars, we see a belt of asteroids, remnants from the earliest stages of planetary formation, relics that are over four and a half billion years old. Some of them stand out to us. Their surfaces are very dark, which we intuit means they may have carbon. Carbon does make things very black.

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