A government official said, Monday, that more than 20 types of amino acids were discovered in samples from the Japanese space probe Hayabusa 2, which was transferred to Earth from an asteroid in late 2020, indicating the presence of organic compounds for the first time. On asteroids in space.
With the amino acids needed for all living things to make proteins, the discovery could hold clues to understanding the origin of life, the Department of Education said.
In December 2020, the Hayabusa 2 capsule carried more than 5.4 grams of surface material to Earth during a six-year mission from the asteroid Ryugu, more than 300 million kilometers away.
File photo of the asteroid Ryugu captured by Hayabusa 2 in November 2019. (Photo courtesy of JAXA) (Kyodo Agency)
The Ryugu probe aims to unravel the mysteries of the origin of the solar system and life. Previous analysis of the samples indicated the presence of water and organic matter.
The full sample study was launched in 2021 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and research institutions across the country, including the University of Tokyo and Hiroshima University.
While it is not known how the amino acids got to ancient Earth, one theory is that they came through meteorites, with the amino acids discovered in a meteorite found on Earth. But there is also a possibility that they will be installed on the floor.
Meteorites that reach Earth when they hit the atmosphere burn quickly and are quickly contaminated with terrestrial microorganisms.
Hayabusa2 has been a pioneer in collecting subsurface materials unaffected by sunlight or cosmic rays and transporting them to Earth without exposure to outside air.
Kensei Kobayashi, professor emeritus of astrobiology at Yokohama National University, said the unprecedented discovery of multiple types of amino acids on an alien body could indicate the presence of alien life.
A capsule used to send asteroid samples to Earth from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft is on display at Sagamihara City Museum, Kanagawa Prefecture, March 12, 2021 (Kyodo)
He said: “Proving the presence of amino acids in the interior of the Earth by asteroids increases the possibility of compounds reaching Earth from space.”
This also means that amino acids are likely to be found on other planets and natural satellites, Kobayashi added, noting that “life could have been born in more places in the universe than previously thought.”
Hayabusa2 left Earth in 2014 and reached its fixed position above Ryugu in June 2018 after traveling 3.2 billion kilometers in an elliptical orbit around the sun for more than three years.
The probe landed on the asteroid twice in the following year, collecting samples from an underground asteroid for the first time.
JAXA announced a “big discovery” about asteroids this spring
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