Water may have been brought to Earth by asteroids from the outer edges of the solar system, scientists said after analyzing rare samples collected on a six-year Japanese space mission.
In a quest to shed light on the origins of life and the formation of the universe, researchers are examining material brought back to Earth in 2020 from the asteroid Ryugu.
The 5.4 grams (0.2 ounces) of rocks and dust were picked up by a Japanese space probe, called Hayabusa-2, which landed on the celestial body and fired an “impactor” at its surface.
Studies of the material are beginning to be published, and in June a group of researchers said they had found organic material showing that some of the building blocks of life on Earth, amino acids, may have formed in space .
In a new article published in the journal Astronomy of naturescientists said samples from Ryugu could provide clues to the mystery of how oceans appeared on Earth billions of years ago.
“Volatile, organic-rich C-type asteroids may have been one of Earth’s main sources of water,” said the study by scientists from Japan and other countries, published Monday.
“Delivery of volatiles (i.e., organics and water) to Earth is still a matter of considerable debate,” he said.
But the organic materials found “in the Ryugu particles, identified in this study, likely represent an important source of volatiles.”
The scientists hypothesized that this material likely has an “outer Solar System origin,” but said it was “unlikely to be the only source of volatiles delivered to the early Earth.”
Hayabusa-2 launched in 2014 on its mission to Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers away, and returned to Earth orbit two years ago to drop off a capsule containing the sample.
In the Astronomy of nature study, the researchers again praised the findings the mission made possible.
“Ryugu particles are undoubtedly among the most uncontaminated Solar System materials available for laboratory study, and ongoing investigations of these precious samples will undoubtedly expand our understanding of early processes in the System Solar,” the study said.
Asteroid samples contain ‘clues to origin of life’: Japanese scientists
Motoo Ito et al, A pristine record of outer Solar System materials from the returned sample of asteroid Ryugu, Astronomy of nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41550-022-01745-5
© 2022 AFP
Summons: Space mission shows Earth’s water may come from asteroids: study (2022, August 16) retrieved August 16, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08- space-mission-earth-asteroids.html
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