asteroid Ryugu begins to reveal his secrets thanks to samples brought back by the Hayabusa-2 mission

The first samples taken from Ryugu, brought back to Earth in December 2020 by the Japanese probe Hayabusa-2, begin to reveal their secrets: a formation close to the origin of the solar system, a relationship with an already known family of meteorites and the presence of Amino acids, the building blocks needed for life.

Meteorites are fragments of asteroids, but it is very rare for a scientist to be able to directly analyze a sample. Meteorites, called as this from from the moment they fell to Earth can be polluted and therefore less reliable to analyze.

asteroids Ryugu, whose samples were analyzed mainly in Japan at the University ofHokkaido since June 2021, finally reveals some of its secrets in several articles that have just been published. It is an article published on June 9, 2022 in the journal Science, signed by 140 scientists, which provides the content.

Among these scientists, lauretta Piani, researcher in cosmochemistry to Petrographic and Geochemical Research Center (CRPG) from Nancy (CNRS / University of Lorraine). She explains to us:This is the first article with chemical characterization of the materials brought back from the asteroid. Ryugu. Noble specimens because rare. It is also a technical achievement of the Japanese Bureau Jaxa which allows these analyzes today.

The Japanese team from the Jaxa agency has developed a very efficient vacuum storage and handling system. This makes it possible to analyze a perfectly preserved sample.

Laurette Piani, CRPG Cosmochemistry Researcher (CNRS / University of Lorraine)

That’s the whole point of this mission Hayabusa-2. “
The advantage of these samples is that they were taken directly from Ryugu and kept under perfect conditions until they arrived on Earth and beyond. The Japanese team from the Jaxa agency has developed a very efficient vacuum storage and handling system. This makes it possible to analyze a perfectly preserved sample“For scientists all over the planet, this is invaluable.

This provides a slightly more accurate reference to how matter was in our solar system, everywhere, at the beginning of the formation of the planets.The first descriptions lead to new questions. Research teams around the world can now ask for access examples to answer some of these questions.

On CRPG in Nancy, for example, there are already ongoing analyzes of gases, but it could others more detailed complete this research.

The idea of ​​the Hayabusa-2 mission is to go and see how the most primitive substance that can be found in the solar system was to understand the ingredients that could have provided an environment conducive to the evolution of life as on The earth.

Bernard Marty, Researcher at CRPG (UMR CNRS – University of Lorraine)

On CRPG by Nancy, another team, consisting of, among others, Bernard Marty and Evelyn Furihas, worked on “volatile elements”. Two scientific articles should be published.

The first is imminent and should bring some additional elements to knowledge about Ryugu. Bernard Marty explains to us:The idea of ​​the Hayabusa-2 mission is to go and see how the most primitive substance that can be found in the solar system was to understand the ingredients that could have provided an environment conducive to the evolution of life as on The earth. The “volatile elements” are central to this quest“.

The mission recovered very primitive material and preserved it from contact with Earth. Amino acids, which are building blocks, were found by another research team.
These amino acids and other organic materials from the asteroid Ryugucould provide clues to the origin of life on Earth“, says this second study, led by the University ofokayama (western Japan).

The discovery of amino acids capable of forming proteins is significant because Ryugu was not exposed to the Earth’s biosphere, unlike meteorites.Therefore, “their detection proves that at least some of these building blocks for life on Earth may have been formed in space environments;“, Adds the same study. The researchers said they identified 23 guys various amino acids in 5.4 grams of black stone and dust samples collected from Ryugu of the Japanese probe Hayabusa-2.

On CRPG from Nancy, the research continues.

Two teams collaborate with Japanese scientists. A “Petrology” team with Laurette pani and a “Volatiles” team.
lauretta panicontinues its search for hydrogen and in particular for water and its distribution in the solar system. Thanks to the chondrites, she imagines being able to work on a map that would shed light on the distribution of water in the solar system.

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