They appeared in a bubble, puddle or other collection of water at around 37 degrees Celsius somewhere on or in a piece of cosmic rock, when the solar system had “only” five million ‘years. And now, some four and a half billion years later, researchers have measured these minerals in a lump of gravel and dust from the distant asteroid Ryugu, a compact, porous collection of debris currently located some 300 million kilometers from Earth. Earth.
After analysis, it appears that the researchers involved in the review Science, that the sample is quite similar to certain types of carbon-rich meteorites (for those in the know: Type CI chondrites), pieces of rock that have collided with Earth in the past. The only difference: where these meteorites have been weathered by their time on our planet, weathered by rain, sun and wind, the material the researchers have now studied is completely intact.
bowl of dough
This officially makes the monster the most pristine cosmic material on Earth. That’s no surprise, because asteroids like Ryugu are the remnants of the mixing bowl that Mother Nature once kneaded the earth and other planets into. The discovery of their composition thus provides a direct link with the history of the solar system.
A “very promising” result, according to astronomer Lucas Ellerbroek, who has analyzed in the past, among other things, the discoveries of the European Rosetta mission. He visited another distant asteroid, where the probe analyzed its chemical composition on the spot. Because deeper analysis is possible on Earth, later missions, including Hayabusa 2 and the Nasa Osirix-Rex mission, which is expected to deliver its package next year, have decided to bring the material here.
In the paper, the researchers describe that, even more than the CI chondrites, the sample resembles the sun’s photosphere, the deepest layer of our parent star’s atmosphere.
building blocks of life
Ellerbroek expects even more exciting analyzes of the sample in the near future. At a scientific conference in March, for example, researchers involved in the Hayabusu maakten mission already concise report of the discovery of amino acids, an important part of life. The new article from Science however, does not give any details about it.
According to Ellerbroek, it is obvious that the researchers will soon report these findings in more detail. “We know that the building blocks of life, including amino acids, probably existed very early in the history of the solar system,” he says.
Missions such as Hayabusa 2 can therefore above all help to reveal the exact chronology of the chemical evolution of the solar system. For example, the question remains open whether all the basic components of life after the formation of our planet were already present here or whether they came from asteroids such as Ryugu. They would then have brought the building blocks here via impacts, suggested the famous astronomer Carl Sagan. in the nineties† “It would be a magical discovery, if life did indeed come from space,” says Ellerbroek. “But it is too early for such conclusions at this time.”
“Food expert. Unapologetic bacon maven. Beer enthusiast. Pop cultureaholic. General travel scholar. Total internet buff.”