The “Gift” of the Hayabusa 2 space probe contains the purest cosmic material on Earth

The shadow of the unmanned probe Hayabusa 2 slides over the surface of the distant asteroid Ryugu, shortly before it catches a bite of grit and dust there. This bite has now been analyzed by scientists.AP . image

It arose in a bubble, pond, or other body of water with a temperature of about 37 degrees Celsius, somewhere on or in a piece of cosmic rock, when the solar system was only five million years old. And now, about four and a half billion years later, researchers have measured those minerals in a morsel of grains and dust from the distant, taut asteroid Ryugu, Porous debris collection Which at that time was about 300 million km from Earth.

After analysis, it seems, the researchers in the trade magazine Sciences, that the sample is very similar to certain types of carbon-rich meteorites (for those in the know: CI-type chondrites), chunks of rock that smashed into Earth in the past. The only difference: in the places where those meteorites were altered by their residence on our planet, due to rain, sun and wind, the materials now studied by researchers are completely untouched.

batter bowl

This officially makes the monster the most primitive cosmic substance on Earth. Not surprisingly, because asteroids like Ryugu are the remaining lumps of the mixing bowl where Mother Nature used to knead the Earth and other planets. Thus, revealing its composition provides a direct link to the history of the solar system.

A “very promising” result, says astronomer Lukas Ellerbrück, who has in the past analyzed discoveries from the European Rosetta mission, among other things. And he visited another asteroid far away, where the probe immediately analyzed its chemical composition. Given the potential for more comprehensive analyzes on Earth, subsequent missions, including Hayabusa 2 and Osirix-Rex, decided on a mission He is expected to deliver his collection next yearBring the material here.

In the paper, the researchers describe that the sample resembles the photosphere of the Sun, the deepest layer of our parent star’s atmosphere, even more so than the CI chondrite.

Asteroid Ryugu, photographed by the Japanese probe Hayabusa 2 at an altitude of six kilometers.  Image Jaxa

The asteroid Ryugu, photographed by the Japanese probe Hayabusa 2, at an altitude of six kilometersJaxa’s photo

The basic building blocks of life

Ellerbroek expects more exciting analyzes of the sample in the near future. During a scientific conference in March, for example, researchers participating in the Hayabusu Maakten . mission Really brief report on the discovery of amino acidsAn important building block in life. The new article in Sciences However, he does not give any details about this.

According to Ellerbroek, it is clear that researchers will soon report on such discoveries in more detail. “We know that the building blocks of life, including amino acids, were probably present very early in the history of the solar system,” he says.

So missions like Hayabusa 2 in particular could help reveal the exact timeline of the solar system’s chemical evolution. For example, the question remains open whether all the basic components of life after the formation of our planet actually existed here, or whether they originated from asteroids such as Ryugu. The famous astronomer Carl Sagan suggested that they might then have brought the building blocks here by collisions. in the nineties† This would be a magical discovery, if life really came from space, says Ellerbrook. “But it is too early for such conclusions at present.”

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