Earth’s water may have come from asteroids from the outer edges of the Solar System, scientists point out after analyzing rare samples collected by a six-year Japanese space mission.
In a search to clarify the origins of life and the formation of the Universe, scientists analyzed material brought to Earth in 2020 by the asteroid Ryugu.
The 5.4 grams of rocks and dust were collected by a Japanese space probe, called Hayabusa-2, which landed on the 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 claimed to have found organic material that showed that some of the essential building blocks for life, amino acids, were formed in space.
In a new report published in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists say samples from Ryugu offer clues to the mystery of the origin of Earth’s oceans billions of years ago.
“Volatile C-type asteroids, rich in organic elements, may have been one of the main sources of water on Earth,” says the study by scientists from Japan and other countries, published last Monday (15).
“The arrival of volatiles (ie organic elements and water) to Earth is still a matter of significant debate,” he acknowledges.
But the organic materials found “in the Ryugu particles identified in this study likely represent an important source of volatiles,” he adds.
Scientists theorize that this material likely has “an origin outside the Solar System”, but say it “is unlikely to be the only source of volatiles delivered to early Earth”.
Hayabusa-2 launched in 2014 towards 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 findings made possible by this mission.
“Ryugu particles are arguably some of the least contaminated materials available in the Solar System for laboratory studies, and ongoing research on these valuable samples will expand our understanding of early Solar System processes.”