Carbonated water and organic matter in remote asteroid reinforce hypotheses about the origin of life on Earth

The team that has investigated the samples of the remote asteroid Ryugu found water carbonated with salts and organic matter inside, a find that, they say, would support the hypothesis that life came to our planet from space.

During the analyses, “liquid water was discovered inside a sample crystal. This water was carbonated, contained salts and organic matter, who was once present in Ryugu’s main bodyAccording to the report published this Thursday by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the magazine Science.

The report is published on the occasion of the first anniversary of the start of the study of the samples collected by the Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 in a pioneering mission, and its results would support the hypothesis that water and organic matter reached Earth via asteroids and other bodies, according to the team.


There are several theories about the appearance of life on Earth. Some point out that it arose little by little from inorganic molecules that gave way to organic compounds such as amino acids, while others hypothesize that organic compounds could have arrived in meteorites.

The researchers, led by Professor Nakamura Tomoki of Tohoku University, have already revealed the amino acid finding in Ryugu samples, considered one of the pillars of life.

The drop of water in particular was found inside a crystal of iron sulfide that also contained carbon dioxide (CO2).

On the surface of the samples there were also crystals shaped like coral reefs believed to have grown in liquid water within Ryugu’s original body, which once would have had plenty of water.

The researchers, divided into six teams and two conservation institutes around the world, also carried out analysis of hardness, thermal conductivity and magnetism of the 17 particles brought from Ryuguand through whose results they made a simulation of their formation 4.6 billion years ago.

Samples from the surface of Ryugu, after it was opened in the lab. Photo: JAXA.


According to their estimates, the original body Ryugu belonged to had about 100 kilometers in diameterwas born in the dark in a primordial nebula far removed from the Sun and no longer exists, and was mainly composed of rock and ice.

His original body was born with a temperature of about -200 degrees Celsius, although high-temperature particles have been found that are believed to have traveled from near the Sun to the outer system.

Ryugu’s main body would have been destroyed by a collision and researchers believe it could have belonged to the asteroid family Polarna or Eulaliaand that they would all have arisen from the destruction of Ryugu’s original body.

After a journey of six years and 5.2 billion kilometers, the Hayabusa2 probe dropped the December 6, 2020 over Australia a container with a small amount of dust and gas from Ryugu.

Hayabusa2, launched in 2014, made contact with the surface of Ryugu twice in 2019 to collect the samples in a complex and historic operation, and after a journey of six years and 5.2 billion kilometers, dropped them in a container over Australia on December 6, 2020.

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