The spacecraft Hayabusa-2 is studying asteroid Ryugu, the space rock located close to the Earth. The spacecraft reached Ryugu many months ago, on June 27, 2018. The probe analyzed the surface of the asteroid ever since, and last month it even managed to collect samples from the surface of the space rock. While the samples will come to Earth in 2020, the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft did offer us valuable information.
“Just a few months after we received the first data, we have already made some tantalizing discoveries,” Seiji Sugita, lead author of one of the studies and a researcher from the University of Tokyo, said in a press release.
“The primary one being the amount of water or lack of it, Ryugu seems to possess. It’s far drier 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.
Asteroid Ryugu broke off a larger body, JAXA’s Hayabusa-2 revealed
Researchers believe that the asteroid Ryugu formed from a larger space body which also contained organic molecules and ice water. However, it is yet unclear how that space rock became dehydrated. There are a couple of explanations. For instance, researchers think that the original body might have been bombarded by other rocky bodies since there are plenty of impact craters on the surface of Ryugu.
Researchers could use this new information and the next data Hayabusa-2 would provide to understand the composition of the early solar system.
“This has implications for finding life. There are uncountably many solar systems out there, and the search for life beyond our solar system needs direction,” Sugita said in the statement. “Our findings can refine models that could help limit which kinds of solar systems the search for life should target,” the scientist added.