When scientists recently unleashed the sample crate from a meteorite that had dropped through the Earth’s atmosphere, little did they know what to expect from the interstellar treasure chest. But it turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as researchers discovered previously unseen sources of organics, minerals, and gases, along with some extraterrestrial dust.
The researchers, who hail from the Universities of Manchester and Tokyo and the ROSCOSMOS Space Agency, traveled to the Chilean Atacama desert to be present for the incredible event. The meteorite, known as “Itokawa”, had been collected from a sample capsule that was shot up to space aboard the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft in 2014. Upon its return to earth, the capsule was opened and scientists immediately found an abundant supply of interstellar substances.
The organics and minerals, found inside the capsule, matched the signatures of what is known to be present in space, as observed in gas clouds and other objects within the Milky Way. These organics contained carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus atoms, all essential building blocks of life.
In contrast, the gases discovered were previously unheard of, indicating that the meteorite had likely originated from a very different kind of environment than those previously encountered by space explorers. This new gas mystery has captivated the scientific world, with speculation suggesting that it may be a source of new knowledge into the structure of interstellar space.
The researchers, however, have yet to uncover any signs of possible life forms within the meteorite or its’ accompanying dust. But that doesn’t stop them from being excited about their findings, which show that the sample from a distant world can still contain secrets, even after a prolonged period of space travel.
This pleasant surprise has not only encouraged the scientific community to further explore outer space, but has also provided knowledge and insight into the mysterious realms of interstellar chemistry and petrologic processes. Without a doubt, it furthers our understanding of our universe and all it has to offer.