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Why is everyone talking about the asteroid Ryugu and where it came from

Ryugu is an Apollo-class asteroid, a celestial body orbiting close to Earth and considered dangerous. According to the calculations made by astronomers, its closest approach to our planet will occur on December 6, 2076 at a distance of 1,564,799 kilometers (which does not seem very close, but if we take into account the spatial distances, it is practically close).

In 2018, the Japanese Hayabusa 2 mission reached the asteroid and collected some samples, which it brought back to Earth. Analysis of this material is now revealing many aspects of this organism’s nature, including its origin.

Kawasaki et al., Science Advances, 2022

“The oxygen isotopic compositions of primary metals can provide important constraints on their origin,” Hokkaido University planetary scientist Noriyuki Kawasaki and colleagues wrote in their published paper.

Where is Ryugu from?

According to the analyzes, the asteroid originated towards the outer limits of the solar system, where comets usually form.

The presence of carbonate minerals in the Ryugu dust samples, along with the amino acids, indicates that the asteroid formed in hypothermic water conditions, in a place where ice did not evaporate easily, possibly in the regions around Uranus and Neptune.

It is also possible that some material from the inner solar system traveled outward, away from the sun, eventually colliding with Ryugu and becoming part of it.

All of this investigative work is helping scientists trace Ryugu’s geological history and place in the universe. The asteroid is likely billions of years old and holds clues about the early years of the solar system.