The most pristine sample of cosmic rocks we have yet to see is the rubble that was retrieved from an Asteroid in Near-Earth Solar Orbit.
According to a new, in-depth analysis of the material delivered to Earth from the asteroid Ryugu, the samples of rocks and dust are among the most uncontaminated Solar System materials we’ve ever had the opportunity to study – and their composition suggests that they incorporate chemistry from the outer reaches of the system.
This not only provides us with a unique tool to understand the Solar System and its creation, but also gives us new contexts in which we can interpret other space rocks that are contaminated by contact with Earth.
“Ryugu particles,” wrote a team headed by Motoo Ito, cosmochemist at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science Technology in Japan. “Ryugu particles are the most uncontaminated and unsplit extraterrestrial materials that have been studied so far and provide the closest match to the bulk Solar System composition.”
It has been 4.6 billion years since both the Sun and the Solar System formed. This is a long time and there have been many changes since then. But we do have time capsules which allow us to study how the early Solar System chemistry worked together. These are chunks like comets and asteroids of rock that have been floating around in space for more or less the same time since their formation.
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