After analysing unique samples obtained during a six-year Japanese space mission, scientists speculated that water may have been transported to Earth by asteroids from the extreme reaches of the solar system.
Researchers are studying the debris returned to earth in 2020 from the asteroid Ryugu in an effort to give light on the beginnings of life and the creation of the universe.
The Japanese Hayabusa-2 space probe, which touched down on the celestial planet and launched a “impactor” into its surface, collected the 5.4 grammes (0.2 ounces) of pebbles and dust.
Studies on the material are starting to be published, and in June one team of researchers said that they had discovered organic material that suggested that some of the amino acids, the fundamental components of life on Earth, may have evolved in space.
According to a recent study that was published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the Ryugu samples may hold the key to solving the puzzle of how seas first arose on Earth billions of years ago.
The study, conducted by researchers from Japan and other nations, was released on Monday. It suggested that volatile and organic-rich C-type asteroids “may have been one of the main suppliers of Earth’s water.”
It stated that “there is still considerable disagreement regarding the delivery of volatiles (that is, organics and water) to the Earth.”
However, “in Ryugu particles, detected in this study, the organic components undoubtedly represent one key source of volatiles.”
According to scientists, this material most likely originated in the outer solar system, although it was “unlikely to be the only source of volatiles delivered to the early Earth.”
Hayabusa-2 was launched in 2014 on its mission to Ryugu, around 300 million kilometers 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.
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