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Science And Nature

Asteroid Ryugu contains dust over the age of the solar system

The asteroid Ryugu, as seen by Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft on June 30, 2018.

The asteroid Ryugu, as seen by Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft on June 30, 2018.(Image credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST.)

Ancient grains of dust which are more than the solar system itself have already been within samples from asteroid Ryugu taken to Earth by japan Hayabusa2 spacecraft nearly 2 yrs ago.

The current presence of this pre-solar material in Ryugu isn’t a surprise, as similar ancient grains were previously within several carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, which are carbon-rich bits of space rocks that survived the fall through Earth’s atmosphere to land on earth.

The ancient particles in samples from Ryugu are made from silicon carbide, a chemical compound it doesn’t naturally occur on Earth. Based on the researchers behind the brand new study, you can find different types of silicon carbide grains that differ with what scientists call their isotopic signatures, or the amount of neutrons in the core of the silicon and carbon atoms that define the compound.

Related: Asteroid Ryugu contains material over the age of the planets, being among the most primitive ever studied on the planet

In the Ryugu samples, researchers detected the previously known forms of silicon carbide but additionally an exceptionally rare type of silicate that’s easily destroyed by chemical processes that happen in asteroids. The material was found “in a less-chemically-altered fragment that likely shielded it from such activity,” the researchers said in a statement (opens in new tab).

The study (opens in new tab) was published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters on Monday (Aug. 15).

JAPAN Hayabusa2 mission touched down on Ryugu, a near-Earth asteroid that completes one orbit round the sun every 16 months, in July 2019. The probe taken to Earth about one-fifth of an ounce (5 grams) of space dust, which includes been analyzed in labs around the globe since its delivery to Earth in December 2020.

Actually, separate research (opens in new tab) published Tuesday (Aug. 16) in the journal Nature Astronomy also analyzes material from Ryugu. The scientists behind that research used another kind of isotopic analysis, in addition to a technique called scanning transmission X-ray microscopy, among other studies.

That research found compounds that can’t withstand temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius), which coupled with other findings claim that Ryugu formed in the outer solar system and migrated in, in accordance with a statement (opens in new tab) from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which manages the Hayabusa2 mission.

Both studies are types of work that depends on bringing asteroid samples back again to Earth to investigate with terrestrial equipment.

“The chance to recognize and study these grains in the lab might help us understand the astrophysical phenomena that shaped our solar system, along with other cosmic objects,” Larry Nittler, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University and a co-author of the silicon carbide study, said in the statement.

Follow Tereza Pultarova on Twitter @TerezaPultarova. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Tereza Pultarova

Tereza is really a London-based science and technology journalist, aspiring fiction writer and amateur gymnast. Originally from Prague, the Czech Republic, she spent the initial seven years of her career working as a reporter, script-writer and presenter for various TV programmes of the Czech Public Service Television. She later took a lifetime career break to pursue further education and added a Master’s in Science from the International Space University, France, to her Bachelor’s in Journalism and Master’s in Cultural Anthropology from Prague’s Charles University.She worked as a reporter at the Engineering and Technology magazine, freelanced for a variety of publications including Live Science,, Professional Engineering, Via Satellite and Space News and served as a maternity cover science editor at the European Space Agency.

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