According to a recent press release, water, one of the key components allowing life to flourish on Earth as we know it, may have come from asteroids originating on the solar system’s outer edges.
Scientists made the findings after analysing samples from the Japanese space agency’s Hayabusa 2 mission. During the six-year mission, a space probe was sent to collect 5.4 grammes (0.2 ounces) of rocks & dust from the asteroid Ryugu. In December 2020, Hayabusa-2 released the samples back into Earth’s atmosphere.
New Ryugu asteroid sample findings
The Hayabusa-2 mission’s goal was to investigate an asteroid that could potentially shed new light on the Solar System’s early formation. New studies are now being emerge based on JAXA’s investigations and analyses of Ryugu samples collected.
According to a new paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the samples suggest that asteroids were one of the primary sources of water during the Earth’s early formation. “Ryugu particles are without a doubt among the most uncontaminated Solar System materials available for laboratory study,” the study says. “Ongoing investigations of these precious samples will undoubtedly expand our understanding of early Solar System processes.”
Another study published in June highlighted organic material discovered on Ryugu, implying that the building blocks of life, amino acids, may have originated from asteroids.
According to the new study, which was published on Monday, August 15, “volatile and organic-rich C-type asteroids may have been one of the main sources of Earth’s water. The delivery of volatiles (organics & water) to the Earth is still a subject of significant debate.” Scientists wrote
Most importantly, the organic materials discovered “in Ryugu particles identified in this study are likely to represent one important source of volatiles.” The materials could have come from the “outer Solar System origin” according to the scientists, but they were “unlikely to be the only source of volatiles delivered to the early Earth.”
Hayabusa-2 launched in 2014. The space probe travelled approximately 300 kilometres during its 6 year mission before returning to Earth’s orbit to drop off a capsule containing the sample it had collected. After reentering Earth’s atmosphere, the capsule deployed a parachute and landed safely in South Australia. A recovery team searched the landing site of the capsule before discovering the sample, which was said to be in excellent condition.
The Hayabusa-2 space probe is currently on a sample-collection mission. The spacecraft avoided reentry after dropping the Ruygu sample capsule, and it is now on its way to a smaller, 30m-wide asteroid, with an arrival date of 2031.
Another high-profile asteroid mission, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), is on its way to the asteroid Dimorphos to see if a spacecraft can successfully alter the dangerous trajectory of asteroid.