The Ryugu asteroid sample brought back by the exploration spacecraft Hayabusa2 sent by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency may be the most pollution-free rock in outer space that humans have detected. In an in-depth analysis, a team of Japanese researchers at JAMSTEC (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology) found that the samples brought back to Earth by a Japanese plane in December 2020 were the most “uncontaminated” samples.
This will help scientists gain a clear understanding of the particle chemistry in asteroid Ryugu.The study was published in nature.
Our solar system is 4.6 billion years old. And, a lot has changed in this ever-expanding universe since the time capsules of asteroids and comets flying around in outer space. These space rocks contain traces of the chemical composition of the early solar system.
In the past, these asteroids have only been studied after entering Earth’s atmosphere, which often changes the chemical composition of the samples. Further delays in collecting samples tend to produce more variation. This transformation is known as terrestrial weathering. The samples collected by Hayabusa-2 were free of Earth weathering and other pollutants.
“The material that formed asteroid Ryugu originated in the outer solar system, and while it underwent a significant water phase change on its parent asteroid, it was never significantly heated and thus retained its original characteristics,” the researchers detailed in a statement. Explain the sample analysis, said in a statement.
The origin of Ryugu is from the outer solar system, which the researchers deduced by studying the nitrogen and hydrogen compositions found in the samples. The nitrogen and hydrogen isotopic compositions of the Ryugu particle were compared to various other extraterrestrial matter. The resulting data suggest that the Ryugu particle formed outside our solar system.
The asteroid also demonstrated “first-of-its-kind” evidence of water-mineral-organic interactions on an asteroid. This makes asteroids one of the potential sources of organic matter and water in the inner solar system (including our Earth).