(ORDO NEWS) — A sample collected by the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft revealed dust that existed long before the sun appeared.
Dust particles older than the solar system were found in samples collected from the asteroid Ryugu. The material was brought to Earth by the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft of the Japan Space Agency, where an unexpected find was discovered.
The team compared the Ryugu sample to known pre-solar grains found in carbonaceous chondrite meteorites that have landed on Earth in the past. Only 5 percent of meteorites on Earth contain stardust that existed before the formation of the solar system.
Each such speck of dust is approximately 1/100 of the dot size on this page. The age of the oldest discovered by scientists is about 7 billion years.
As reported in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Ryugu has every known type of dust grain that predated the sun, including silicate, which is easily destroyed by chemical weathering. This suggests that when Ryugu’s parent body was changed, that seed was somehow protected.
“The composition and content of presolar grains that we found in Ryugu samples are similar to what we have previously found in carbonaceous chondrites,” said study co-author Larry Nittler of Arizona State University.
“This gives us a more complete picture of the formation processes of the solar system, which can serve as the basis for models and future experiments with Hayabusa2 samples, as well as with other meteorites.”
Ryugu is a small near-Earth asteroid that orbits the Sun, making one revolution every 16 months. It is a pile of gravel, loosely bound by gravity, formed from a mixture of various asteroids, inside which is stardust present in the nebula from which the solar system was formed.
The sun is made up of interstellar hydrogen contaminated with material ejected from several supernovae. From this “garbage” the planets of the solar system, and even us, were eventually formed.
“Different types of pre-solar grains originated from different types of stars and stellar processes that we can identify from their isotope signatures,” explained study co-author Jens Barosz of the Carnegie Institution of Science.
“Being able to identify and study these grains in the lab will help us understand the astrophysical phenomena that have shaped the solar system, as well as other cosmic objects.”
Since this is just the beginning of work on Ryugu samples, scientists can learn a lot more interesting not only about the asteroid itself, but also about how the solar system formed.
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