Japanese asteroid probe reportedly found 20 amino acids • The Register

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The dust that the Japanese probe Hayabusa2 sent back to Earth from the asteroid Ryugu would contain 20 amino acids, according to Japanese media.

Which is very exciting indeed, because amino acids are the stuff of life. They help make proteins, act as neurotransmitters in the brain, and are quite ubiquitous and essential to life on earth. Just last month estimated diary Nature published research suggesting that amino acids had a crucial role in the evolution of the first self-replicating molecules.

outlets such as Nikkei report that a Department of Science spokesperson yesterday mentioned the presence of amino acids, with a hint of peer-reviewed work to come, but no further details.

This is little information, but the Japanese space agency JAXA has already hinted that it will share big news about Hayabusa2 in the spring (north). The presence of amino acids on the asteroid Ryugu is considered very big news, as one of the mysteries of the universe is how and why life evolved here on Earth.

One theory is that the ingredients for life are found in space, and their occasional encounters with comets, asteroids, planets, or moons allow life to spread.

Finding amino acids on Ryugu is a boost for this theory.

There is a long way to go before the theory comes to fruition. For starters, Hayabusa2 only brought 5.4 grams of asteroid material to Earth, and Ryugu is just one of countless asteroids. Peer-reviewed research has not yet been published.

On the upside, amino acids have also been found on the Moon. In contrast, Japan’s first asteroid sample return mission found only rocks.

So it’s probably a little premature to say that we’re not alone. But if you want to believe, maybe the likelihood of there being another life out there has increased a bit. ®

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