Space & Astronomy
Asteroid Ryugu found to contain one of the building blocks of life
By T.K. Randall
March 28, 2023 · 4 comments
The samples collected by Hayabusa-2. Image Credit: JAXA
Scientists in Japan have found new evidence to suggest that the building blocks of life arrived on Earth from space.
Part of the Japanese Space Agency's MINERVA-II-1 program, the Hayabusa-2 probe launched all the way back in 2014 and arrived in orbit around the asteroid Ryugu in 2018.
During its mission, the probe collected several samples of rocks and soil that were then sent back to the Earth for study inside a small capsule.
These arrived safely in 2020 and scientists have been studying them ever since.
Now an analysis of the samples collected by the spacecraft has revealed that the material, which has turned out to be the most primitive ever studied in a laboratory, contains uracil - one of the four nucleobases of ribonucleic acid (or RNA) which is one of the building blocks of life on Earth.
The asteroid itself is thought to have formed far out from the Sun (around the orbit of Neptune) some 4.5 billion years ago during the earliest days of the solar system.
The discovery has been hailed as further evidence to suggest that the building blocks of life arrived on our own planet from space at some point in the distant past.
"The discovery of biologically relevant molecules such as nucleobases in the most pristine extraterrestrial materials without any terrestrial contaminations guarantees that they are really present in extraterrestrial environments," said study lead author Yasuhiro Oba of Japan's Hokkaido University.
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