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These are small specks of dust that tell us a lot about our origins: taken from an asteroid by a Japanese probe, they were brought back to earth for analysis. And they turn out to be even more interesting than expected, since these grains of dust contain amino acids, one of the building blocks of the chemistry of life on Earth.
His name is Ryugu, he’s a piece of rock floating in space more than 300 million kilometers from Earth. A target, obviously not chosen at random by Jaxa, the Japanese space agency for its mission Hayabusa-2. The objective: to take a few grains and bring them back to Earth for analysis.
It’s done, and Ryugu turns out to be a better choice than expected since the reported dust indeed teaches us that it is one of the most ancestral asteroids in our solar system. It is a sample from the past, which tells us about the conditions that reigned then, 4.5 billion years ago.
Determine where these amino acids come from
The other surprise of the sample is that it contains amino acids, molecules that are used to make the proteins used by living beings. This is not the first time that we have found them in space since the Rosetta European Mission for example spotted it on comet Tchouri.
On the other hand, we still do not know how these amino acids appeared on the primitive Earth. Would they have come from the sky thanks to collisions with asteroids similar to Ryugu? The debate is not settled, but this hypothesis has just taken on a little more weight.
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