Rocks of Life
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Asteroids and comets around the galaxy could be holding the building blocks of life.
At least that seems the case with the Ryugu asteroid, located more than 200 million miles from the Earth, Live Science reported.
In a first-of-its-kind study, Japanese scientists discovered more than 20 amino acids on the diamond-shaped space rock, after studying samples taken from it.
In 2018, Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft landed on Ryugu and a year later collected about 0.2 ounces from the asteroid’s surface and subsurface. The samples were stored in an airtight container and then sent back to Earth.
Researchers noted that the celestial body is a carbonaceous asteroid, which means that it contains a large amount of carbon-rich organic matter. This matter could have originated from the same nebula that gave birth to the sun and the planets of the solar system roughly 4.6 billion years ago.
The team described the samples as “the most primitive material in the solar system we have ever studied.”
They added that amino acids are the fundamental building blocks of all proteins and integral for the existence of life on our planet.
Their presence in Ryugu and other primordial space rocks has scientists wondering whether some comets and asteroids – possibly all of them – could be carrying these life-building molecules.
Some suggested that the findings offer a clue that “life could have been born in more places in the universe than previously thought.”
Meanwhile, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collected a rock sample from the Bennu asteroid and are hoping to find more clues about the evolution of our solar system once they return to Earth next year.