Scientists found water & organic matter on the surface of an asteroid sample collected from the solar system. The first time such material has been found on an asteroid.
The sample, which was only one grain, came from asteroid, Itokawa by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) first Hayabusa mission in 2010.
It shows both water & organic matter that originate not from an alien world, but from the asteroid itself.
The asteroid weathered extreme heat, dehydration & shattering, but managed to re-form & re-hydrate using material it picked-up.
The study also shows, S-type asteroids, which are the most common ones that come to Earth can contain the raw components of life.
This could re-write our knowledge of the history of life on Earth, which previously focused on carbon-rich C-type asteroids.
“The Hayabusa mission was a robotic spacecraft developed-by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to return samples from a small-near Earth asteroid named Itokawa, for detailed analysis in laboratories on Earth”, Dr. Queenie Chan from Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, said in a statement.
“After being studied in great detail-by an international team of researchers, our analysis of single grain, nicknamed ‘Amazon’, has preserved both primitive (unheated) & processed (heated) organic matter within 10 microns (a thousandth of a centimeter) of distance.”
“The organic matter that has been heated indicates that the asteroid had been heated to-over 600 degree Celsius in the past. The presence of unheated organic matter very close to it, means the in fall of primitive organics arrived on the surface of Itokawa after the asteroid had cooled down.”
The scientists research, entitled “Organic matter & water from asteroid Itokawa”, were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
“These findings are really exciting as-they reveal complex details of an asteroid’s history and how its evolution pathway is so similar that of the pre-biotic Earth”, Dr. Chen added.
It’s hoped that the analysis of this sample will set the ground work for more detailed analysis of other samples.
In 2019, samples from the asteroid Bennu revealed that it had been actually older than scientists previously thought, providing a new look on how the evolution of solar system developed.
Observations of Bennu also confirmed, the presence of widespread & abundant hydrated materials and also the surprising presence of large boulders.