After analyzing rare samples collected on a Japanese space mission
After analyzing rare samples collected in a Japanese space mission that lasted six years, scientists revealed that quantities of water may have reached Earth by asteroids from the far reaches of the solar system.
In an effort to shed light on the origins of life and the formation of the universe, researchers examine materials returned to Earth in 2020 from the asteroid Ryugu.
It collected 5.4 grams of rock and dust by a Japanese space probe called “Hayabusa-2”, which landed on the celestial body and launched a “collisioner” on its surface.
Studies on these substances began to be published, and in June, researchers said they had found an organic material that showed that some of the basic pillars of life on Earth, amino acids, may have formed in space.
In a new study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists said that the Ryugu samples could provide clues to the mystery of how the oceans appeared on Earth billions of years ago.
“Volatile, organic-rich Type C asteroids may have been one of the main sources of Earth’s water,” said the study, conducted by scientists from Japan and other countries and published Monday. She noted that “the delivery of volatiles (i.e. organic matter and water) to Earth is still a matter of great debate.”
But the organic matter “in the Ryugu particles, identified in this study, may represent an important source of volatiles.”
Scientists assumed that such materials may have an “extrasolar system origin”, but said that “it is unlikely to be the only source of volatiles that reached the early Earth.”
Hayabusa2 was launched in 2014 on its mission to Ryugu, some 300 million kilometers away, and returned to Earth’s orbit two years ago to return a capsule containing the sample.
In the Nature Astronomy study, researchers again praised the results made available by the Japanese space mission.
“The Ryugu particles are undoubtedly among the most uncontaminated solar system materials available for laboratory studies, and ongoing investigations of these precious samples are sure to expand our understanding of the processes the early solar system experienced,” the study said.