For the first time in history, Japanese scientists have discovered more than 20 amino acids in an asteroid 320 kilometers from Earth in Ryugu. Amino acids are essential components for building proteins without which life on earth would not exist.
Back in 2019, the Japan Space Agency (JAXA) spacecraft, Hayabusa2, collected a sample of 5.4 grams from the surface and depth of the asteroid Ryugu and brought it to Earth. The first such discovery was made by scientists while studying these samples.
As a coal asteroid, Ryugu contains an abundance of carbon-rich organic matter, much of which is likely to have originated from the same nebula that formed the sun and the planets of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. The analysis of the previous sample also showed that water is found on the asteroid.
According to a professor at the University of Hokkaido in Yuriyoto, Hisayo, Ryugu material is the most primitive material in the solar system that has ever been studied.
Scientists have found that, unlike the organic molecules on our planet, asteroid samples have not changed their interaction with Earth, since they reflect only 2-3 percent of the light that enters. Consequently, their composition is the same as it was in the early solar system.
“We found a number of prebiotic organic compounds in the samples, including proteinogenic amino acids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and nitrogen compounds,” said Hiroshi Naraoka, head of the research team.
It should also be noted that in 2019, organic molecules of cosmic origin were discovered in the 3.3 billion-year-old rocks found in South Africa. This gives even more reason to believe that these molecules necessary for life hit the Earth through comets and asteroids.
“Proof of the presence of amino acids in asteroids increases the likelihood that these compounds were found on Earth from space,” said Kensey Kobayashi, Emeritus Professor of Astrobiology at Yokohama National University.
Therefore, we may find amino acids on other planets and natural satellites as well. It will be ominous that life exists in more places in the world than we can imagine.
Researchers are continuing to analyze Ryugu samples, and more data on the asteroid’s formation and composition will be available soon.