Tokyo (AFP) – Specks of dust retrieved by a Japanese space probe from an asteroid some 300 million kilometres from Earth have revealed a surprising component: a drop of water, scientists said Friday.
The findings are in the latest research to be published from the analysis of 5.4 grams of rocks and dust gathered by the Hayabusa-2 probe from the asteroid Ryugu.
"This drop of water has great meaning," lead scientist Tomoki Nakamura of Tohoku University told reporters ahead of the research's publication in the journal Science on Friday.
"Many researchers believe that water was brought (from outer space) but we actually discovered water in Ryugu, an asteroid near Earth, for the first time."
Hayabusa-2 was launched in 2014 on its mission to Ryugu, and returned to Earth's orbit two years ago to drop off a capsule containing the sample.
The precious cargo has already yielded several insights, including organic material that showed some of the building blocks of life on Earth, amino acids, may have been formed in space.