Key substance for life found in asteroid samples

The discovery could hold clues to understanding the origins of life.


In 2020, Japan’s Hayabusa2 space probe brought asteroid samples to Earth. The capsule carried by Hayabusa2 delivered more than 5.4 grams of surface material from the Ryugu asteroid, a near-Earth object and a potentially hazardous asteroid of the Apollo group.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and research institutions across the country, including the University of Tokyo and Hiroshima University, began a complete sample investigation in 2021.

Recently, scientists reported the discovery of 20 types of amino acids in the samples. These amino acids are significant substances for living things. It could hold vital clues to understanding the origins of life.

Amino acids are substances that make proteins and are indispensable for life.

How amino acids arrived on Earth remains elusive. According to a theory, meteorites brought them. But there is also a possibility that they were attached to the ground.

Kensei Kobayashi, professor emeritus of astrobiology at Yokohama National University, said the unprecedented discovery of multiple types of amino acids on an extraterrestrial body could even hint at life outside of Earth.”

“Proving amino acids exist in the subsurface of asteroids increases the likelihood that the compounds arrived on Earth from space.”

“It also means amino acids can likely be found on other planets and natural satellites, hinting that life could have been born in more places in the universe than previously thought.”

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