An unmanned Japanese spacecraft has been circling Ryugu, a carbon-rich C-type asteroid that orbits the earth.
They’ve recently made some interesting discoveries that could give us clues to the origins of earth’s water and potential life in other solar systems.
This is significant because scientists believe that the earth’s water came from local asteroids, distant comets, and the nebula or dust cloud that became our sun.
It’s all going to make sense in a minute, so here’s CNN with more on Ryugu:
Scientists working on Japan’s Hayabusa 2 space mission said that by using a wide range of cameras and instruments to collect images and data about the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu, they had made some “tantalizing discoveries.”
“The primary one being the amount of water, or lack of it, Ryugu seems to possess,” said Seiji Sugita of the University of Tokyo’s Department of Earth and Planetary Science in a press statement as the mission released its initial findings.
“It’s far dryer than we expected, and given Ryugu is quite young (by asteroid standards) at around 100 million years old, this suggests its parent body was much largely devoid of water too,” Sugita added.
The presence of dry asteroids in the asteroid belt could change models used to describe the chemical composition of the early solar system. It could also affect the way we look for extraterrestrial life.
“There are uncountably many solar systems out there and the search for life beyond ours needs direction,” Sugita said. “Our findings can refine models that could help limit which kinds of solar systems the search for life should target.”
The mission’s three initial papers published in the journal Science on Tuesday described the mass, size, shape, density, spin and geological properties of the asteroid, a porous “pile of rubble” shaped like a spinning top.
The Japanese space agency, JAXA, is also working with NASA, which has its own probe, OSIRIS-REx, exploring a different asteroid known as Bennu.
“Thanks to the parallel missions of Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx, we can finally address the question of how these two asteroids came to be,” Sugita said. “That Bennu and Ryugu may be siblings yet exhibit some strikingly different traits implies there must be many exciting and mysterious astronomical processes we have yet to explore.”
The Japanese spacecraft has been collecting samples which will be analysed when it returns to earth next year.
Watch this space.
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