Asteroid samples hold ‘clues to the origin of life’

(ORDO NEWS) — Dust from asteroid Ryugu collected by Japan’s space probe contains organic material that shows some of the building blocks of life on Earth may have formed in space, scientists said Friday.

A team of researchers led by Okayama University in western Japan said they have discovered “amino acids and other organic substances that may provide clues to the origin of life on Earth.”

“The discovery of protein-forming amino acids is important because Ryugu has not been exposed to the Earth’s biosphere like meteorites, and therefore their discovery proves that at least some of the building blocks of life on Earth could have been formed in the space environment,” the scientists say.

The research team reports that when studying a sample collected by Japan’s Hayabusa-2 probe, they found 23 different types of amino acids.

Dust and rocks were jumbled up as a refrigerator-sized spacecraft fired an impactor at the asteroid.

It is believed that some of the material was formed about five million years after the birth of the solar system and did not heat up above 100 degrees Celsius.

Kensei Kobayashi, an expert in astrobiology and professor emeritus at the National University of Yokohama, suggests: “Scientists are wondering how organic substances, including amino acids, were created or where they came from, and the fact that amino acids were found in the sample suggests that that they were brought to Earth from outer space.

The other main theory for the origin of amino acids is that they were created in the Earth’s primordial atmosphere as a result of lightning strikes, for example, after the Earth cooled.

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