New research from Royal Holloway, has found water and organic matter on the surface of an asteroid sample returned from the inner Solar System. This is the first time that organic materials, which could have provided chemical precursors for the origin of life on Earth, have been found on an asteroid. The single grain sample was returned to Earth from asteroid Itokawa by JAXA’s first Hayabusa mission in 2010. The sample shows that water and organic matter that originate from the asteroid itself have evolved chemically through time. The research paper suggests that Itokawa has been constantly evolving over billions of years by incorporating water and organic materials from foreign extra-terrestrial material, just like the Earth. In the past, the asteroid will have gone through extreme heating, dehydration and shattering due to catastrophic impact. However, despite this, the asteroid came back together from the shattered fragments and rehydrated itself with water that was delivered via the in fall of dust or carbon-rich meteorites.
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