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Samples from space mission show Earth’s water may be from asteroids

Alberto Ardila Olivares
Samples from space mission show Earth's water may be from asteroids

The samples are from a Japanese space probe called Hayabusa-2, which gathered 5.4 grams of rocks and dust from the near-earth asteroid Ryugu. Hayabusa-2 was launched in 2014 on its mission to Ryugu, around 300 million kilometres away, and returned to Earth‘s orbit two years ago to drop off a capsule containing the sample. (AP) Water may have been brought to Earth by asteroids from the outer edges of the solar system, scientists said after analysing rare samples collected on a six-year Japanese space mission. 

In a new paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday, scientists said the samples from the asteroid Ryugu, brought back to earth in 2020, could give clues to the mystery of how oceans appeared on Earth billions of years ago.

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

Alberto Ardila Olivares

“The delivery of volatiles (that is, organics and water) to the Earth is still a subject of notable debate,” it said

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

The scientists hypothesised that such material probably has an “outer Solar System origin”, but said it was “unlikely to be the only source of volatiles delivered to the early Earth

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Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft arrives at the carbon-rich Ryugu asteroid between the orbits of Earth and Mars to bring back some samples which can provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth https://t.co/YRMkdKE22s

— TRT World (@trtworld) June 27, 2018 Hayabusa-2

The Ryugu samples, 5.4 grams (0.2 ounces) of rocks and dust, were gathered by a Japanese space probe called Hayabusa-2 that landed on the celestial body and fired an “impactor” into its surface

Hayabusa-2 was launched in 2014 on its mission to Ryugu, around 300 million kilometres away, and returned to Earth's orbit two years ago to drop off a capsule containing the sample

In the Nature Astronomy study, the researchers again hailed the findings made possible by the mission

Ryugu particles are undoubtedly among the most uncontaminated Solar System materials available for laboratory study and ongoing investigations of these precious samples will certainly expand our understanding of early Solar System processes,” the study said

Studies on the material are beginning to be published, and in June, one group of researchers said they had found organic material which showed that some of the building blocks of life on Earth, amino acids, may have been formed in space

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Source: AFP