Amino acids discovered in samples taken from asteroid

Courtesy of JAXA
A rock from the asteroid Ryugu brought back by the Hayabusa2 space probe

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Amino acids, the building blocks of life on Earth, have been discovered in sand samples from the asteroid Ryugu collected by the Hayabusa2 explorer and brought back in 2020, sources said Monday.

Several types of amino acids were detected by a team of researchers from universities and research institutions from both inside and outside of Japan conducting initial analysis of the samples, the sources said.

This marks the first time that amino acids, which had been found in meteorites that fell to Earth in the past, have been discovered in samples brought back from outside of the planet.

The findings are expected to be discussed in a research paper to be released shortly, the sources said.

One theory on the origin of life contends that it arose from Earth, while another suggests it was brought from elsewhere in space through meteorites or other forms. The latest findings support the latter theory.

In December 2020, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency retrieved 5.4 grams of sand samples from a capsule that had detached from Hayabusa2. Organic matter and water have already been discovered in the samples.

Launched in December 2014, Hayabusa2 reached Ryugu in June 2018. The explorer collected samples when it landed on the asteroid in February and July of 2019.

After dropping off the samples on Earth, Hayabusa2 was sent on another journey to another asteroid.