The discovery of water and organic materials “essential to life on Earth” on the surface of an asteroid


A study showed that organic materials necessary for life on Earth, including water, were discovered on the surface of an asteroid for the first time. The planetary scientists from the “Royal Holloway” University in London examined one grain of dust that returned to Earth from the asteroid “Itokawa”, before Japan Space Exploration Agency (JAXA), as part of its first “Hayabusa” mission in 2010.

It turns out that water and organic matter originated on the asteroid itself, rather than arriving as part of a collision, suggesting that it was a chemical evolution over billions of years. This is the first time that such materials have been found on the surface of an asteroid, according to the British team responsible for the new study. .

Scientists claim that this is a major discovery that could “rewrite the history of life on our planet,” because it is very similar to the path of evolution on early Earth. The asteroid was slowly integrating liquid and organic materials in the same way that is taking place on our planet, according to the researchers. Constantly over billions of years by incorporating water and organic matter from foreign matter, just like Earth.

The study authors explained that in the past, the asteroid was subjected to intense heat, drought and shattered due to a catastrophic impact. However, despite this, the asteroid formed from shattered fragments and re-moistened itself with water that was transported through the fall of dust or meteorites rich in carbon. Type S, which is where most of the Earth’s meteorites, such as Itokawa, contains the elementary components of life.

Analysis of this asteroid changes traditional views on the origin of life on Earth, which previously focused heavily on carbon-rich type C asteroids. Dr Queenie Chan, of the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, said this demonstrates the value of bringing samples of rocks. Space to be studied in Earth’s laboratories.

He continued, “After being studied in great detail by an international team of researchers, our analysis of a single pill, nicknamed” Amazon “, preserved both primitive (unheated) and processed (preheated) organic matter. That the asteroid was heated to more than 600 degrees Celsius in the past, and that the presence of unheated organic matter very close to it means that the fall of the primitive organic materials reached the surface of “Itokawa” after the asteroid cooled. ”

Chan said that studying the “Amazon” sample allowed them to better understand how the asteroid was constantly evolving by adding new water and organic compounds. These results are really exciting because they reveal intricate details about the asteroid’s history, and how its evolution path is very similar to Earth’s early trajectory. The mission and analysis of the sample that has since returned to Earth has paved the way for a more detailed analysis of the material returned through missions such as JAXA’s Hayabusa2 and NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex missions.

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