For the first time, scientists have found building blocks of life on an asteroid in space.
Japanese researchers have found more than 20 amino acids in the Ryugu space rock, more than 200 million kilometers from Earth..
Scientists made the first such detection by examining samples close to Earth. asteroid By the Japanese spacecraft (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which landed in Ryugu in 2018. In 2019, the spacecraft collected 0.2 ounces (5.4 grams) from the asteroid’s surface and underground, stored it in an airtight container, and fired back. Earth in a fine trajectory.
Related: We can finally find out why Ryugu has such a strange shape of this rotating asteroid
Instead of being a large rock, Ryugu is made up of many small rocks, and the asteroid got its unusual shape from its rapid rotation, scientists believe. Gisa carbonor type C, an asteroid, Ryugu contains a large amount of carbon-rich organic matter mattermany of which were probably born from the same nebula that was born Sun and planets solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. Analysis of the previous sample also suggested that the asteroid is taking up water.
“The Ryugu material is the most primitive material in the solar system we have ever studied,” said Hisayoshi Yurimoto, a geoscience professor at Hokkaido University and head of the Hayabusa2 mission’s initial chemical analysis team, as he explained the initial discoveries of the Moon and Planetarium. Science Conference in March.
Unlike the organic molecules found on Earth, the samples of black asteroids, which reflect only 2% to 3% of the light that scientists consider, have not changed due to their interactions with the Earth’s environment, giving a much closer chemical composition. to the initial solar system.
“We detected a number of prebiotic organic compounds in the samples, including proteinogenic amino acids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons similar to terrestrial oil, and various nitrogen compounds,” said Hiroshi Naraoka, a scientist at Kyushu University, who led the team searching for organic matter. in samples, he said in a speech. “These prebiotic organic molecules can spread across the solar system as interplanetary dust on the surface of Ruygu for impact or other reasons.”
Initially, the analysis of the sample detected 10 types of amino acids, but now the number has risen to more than 20, according to the Japanese Ministry of Education. Amino acids are the basic constituents of all proteins and are essential conditions for life on our planet. A 2019 study in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta found organic molecules from space in a group of 3.3 billion-year-old rocks found in South Africa, which suggested the possibility of some, if not all, of the life-building molecules. On Earth in comets and asteroids. Ryugu’s findings provide even stronger evidence that asteroids carry these molecules.
“Proving that there are amino acids underground in asteroids increases the probability of compounds reaching Earth from space,” Kensei Kobayashi, an emeritus professor of astrobiology at Yokohama National University, told Kyodo News. This means that the amino acids could probably be found on other planets and natural satellites, “life could have been born in more places in the universe than previously thought,” he added.
Researchers are continuing to study the Ryugu samples, and more data on the asteroid’s formation and composition will be available soon.
And Ryugu isn’t the only space rock he’s researching. In 2021, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collected a sample of rock from another diamond-shaped asteroid called Bennu. When the sample returns to Earth in 2023, evidence of the organic matter contained in it may provide scientists with important clues about the evolution of the solar system and its materials, and how life originated from them.
Originally published in Live Science.