Space mission shows that Earth’s water may come from asteroids (study)

First modification: 16/08/2022 – 06:04Last modification: 16/08/2022 – 06:02

Tokyo (AFP) – Earth’s water may have come from asteroids at the outer edges of the solar system, scientists say after analyzing rare samples collected by a six-year Japanese space mission.

In an investigation to shed light on the origins of life and the formation of the universe, scientists are analyzing material brought to Earth in 2020 from the asteroid Ryugu.

The 5.4 grams of rocks and dust were collected by a Japanese space probe, called Hayabusa-2, which landed on that celestial body and launched an “impactor” on its surface.

Studies of the material obtained are beginning to be published and, in June, a group of researchers indicated that they had found organic material that showed that some of the essential building blocks for life, amino acids, had been formed in space.

In a new report published in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists say the Ryugu samples offer clues to the mystery of the origin of oceans on Earth billions of years ago.

“Volatile and organic-rich C-type asteroids may have been one of the main sources of Earth’s water,” says the study by scientists from Japan and other countries, published on Monday.

“The arrival of volatiles (ie organic elements and water) on Earth is still a matter of significant debate,” he acknowledges.

But the organic materials found “in the Ryugu particles identified in this study probably represent an important source of volatiles,” he adds.

Scientists theorize that this material probably has “an origin outside the solar system”, but say it is “unlikely to be the only source of volatiles delivered to the early Earth”.

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Hayabusa-2 was launched in 2014 in the direction of Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers away, and returned to Earth orbit two years ago to drop a capsule with the samples.

In the study published in Nature Astronomy, the researchers praise the discoveries made possible by this mission.

“Particles from Ryugu are undoubtedly some of the least contaminated material available in the solar system for laboratory study, and ongoing research on these valuable samples will expand our understanding of early solar system processes,” he says. .

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