Surface features of Asteroid Ryugu. Jaumann et al (Science (2019).

Scientists Find Water in Samples Brought From Asteroid 300 Million Kilometers away

The discovery supports the theory that life has been seeded from space.

A Japanese space probe found water in dust samples collected from an asteroid about 186 million miles (300 million kilometers) from Earth. This discovery provides new evidence that life on Earth came from space. 5.4 grams of stones and dust collected by Hayabusa-2 from the asteroid Ryugu have been analyzed in the new research. Tomoki Nakamura of Tohoku University, the lead scientist, told reporters before the publication of his research in Science on Friday that “this drop of water has great meaning.”

“Many researchers believe that water was brought [from outer space], but we actually discovered water in Ryugu, an asteroid near Earth, for the first time.” In 2014, Hayabusa-2 was launched on a mission to Ryugu, and two years ago, it returned to Earth to drop off a capsule containing samples. In addition to organic material, the precious cargo yielded some insight into life on Earth’s building blocks, amino acids, which were formed in space.

Nakamura explained that one of the team’s latest discoveries was a drop of carbonated water that contained salt and organic matter in the Ryugu sample. It strengthens the theory that collisions between asteroids such as Ryugu and its parent asteroid provided water containing salt and organic matter to Earth. Furthermore, the origin of the oceans or organic matter on Earth may be linked directly to this phenomenon, according to research. As part of the Ryugu study, Nakamura’s team comprises about 150 researchers from the United States, Britain, France, Italy, and China.

In order to maximize the chance of discovering new things, the sample has been distributed among different scientific teams. Yokohama National University professor emeritus Kensei Kobayashi, who was not part of the research team, praised the discovery. In light of the sample’s fragility and the possibility of its destruction in outer space, this discovery of water in the sample is surprising. Water was present on the asteroid in the form of fluid rather than ice, and organic matter was likely generated by it, Kobayashi explained.

Previously, we reported that Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft samples brought to Earth nearly two years ago contained ancient grains of dust that are older than the solar system itself. In addition, several carbonaceous chondrite meteorites that have landed on Earth contain similar pre-solar grains, which are carbon-rich space rocks that survived the fall through Earth’s atmosphere to reach the surface.


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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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