Asteroid Provides Samples of Organic Matter and Water

Although most people would think that water and organic matter can exist only on planets and dwarf planets, astronomy is once again there to contradict them. Both organic matter and liquid water are crucial elements for the presence of life as we know it (complex or microbial).

The asteroid 25143 Itokawa may not say much to you, but it can turn out to become a real treasure for astronomers. The Hayabusa mission of JAXA (the Japanese space agency) took a dust particle from the asteroid, and analysis of an international team of scientists revealed the presence of both water and organic contents. The exciting news is brought by, and it provides new hope that scientists are getting closer to finding alien life.

Water helps the building blocks of organic compounds to evolve

Dr. Queenie Chan, the lead author of the study and who works at the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Hollowa, declared:

Understanding the earliest chemical reactions involving liquid water provides crucial insights to how simple building blocks of organic compounds evolved into increasingly complex macromolecules via actions of water.

The scientist continued by saying:

Such investigation necessitates the availability of pristine samples of astromaterials — samples that have not been compromised by terrestrial contamination, and thus preserve the intrinsic states of the materials’ physical, chemical, organic and other properties.

The Itokawa space rock falls into the category of near-Earth S-type asteroids, meaning the most widespread objects from the inner asteroid belt, the place that sends the most meteorites that land on Earth.

Dr. Chan and his colleagues used energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) spectroscopy and Raman analysis to detect organic matter in the form of nanocrystalline graphite and polyaromatic carbon.

Of course, there’s a much longer road until humanity will ever get to find alien life on a space object if it will ever happen, but it’s great to see once again that crucial elements for life don’t exist only on Earth.

The new study was published here.