Water may have been brought to Earth by asteroids from the outer edges of the solar system, scientists say, after analyzing rare samples collected during a six-year space mission. Japan.
In their quest to unravel the origins of life and the formation of the universe, researchers are scrutinizing matter brought back to Earth in 2020 from the asteroid Ryugu.
5.4 grams (0.2 ounces) of rock and dust collected by a Japanese space probe, called Hayabusa-2, which landed on the celestial body and fired an “impact agent” at the surface its.
Studies of the material are beginning to be published, and in June a team of researchers said they had found organic material that suggests some of the building blocks of life on Earth, amino acids. , may have formed in space.
In a new paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists say Ryugu samples could offer clues to the mystery of how oceans appeared on Earth billions of years ago.
“Volatile and organic-rich C-type asteroids could be one of Earth’s main water supplies,” said a study by scientists from Japan and other countries published on Wednesday. Two said.
“The delivery of volatiles (i.e. organic matter and water) to Earth remains a subject of considerable debate,” it said.
But the organic materials found “in the Ryugu particles, identified in this study, may represent an important source of volatiles”.
The scientists hypothesized that such matter could have “sources outside the Solar System”, but say it is “unlikely the only source of volatiles that were transported to the early Earth”.
Hayabusa-2 was launched in 2014 on a mission to Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers away, and returned to Earth orbit two years ago to drop a capsule containing the test sample.
In Research Astronomy, the researchers once again praised the findings made by the mission.
“Ryugu particles are undoubtedly one of the most uncontaminated materials in the Solar System to study in the laboratory, and ongoing investigations into these precious samples will certainly open the door,” the study said. expand our understanding of the early processes of the Solar System”.