Dust found on the asteroid Ryugu is older than our solar system

An Empire State Building-size asteroid is heading past Earth this week

The asteroid Ryugu is located roughly 300 million kilometers from Earth. It completes an orbit around the Sun every 16 months, and many believe an asteroid like it helped fuel the origin of water on Earth. A team of international researchers is now investigating the possibility that they have found presolar stardust, a form of space dust which existed long before our solar system formed.

Ryugu has dust older than our solar system

The evidence was collected by the Hayabusa-2 space probe during a mission that began in 2014. Now that Hayabusa-2 has returned the samples to Earth, we’re finally learning more about this asteroid and the presolar stardust that calls it home. Ryugu, like many other asteroids out there, is made up of gravel-like substances believed to have come from other asteroids.

The asteroid itself is massive, and scientists believe it originated beyond our solar system’s edge. The presence of dust that predates the formation of our solar system could expand upon Ryugu’s origins, or at least how.

Scientists around the world have been studying the samples since the return of the asteroid probe’s samples to Earth. Researchers wanted to know the sample’s age. They published their findings in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The authors note that different stellar processes are evident in the samples. This presolar stardust has received quite a lot of attention.

Other meteorites

Ryugu isn’t the only celestial object we’ve found with substances that predate our solar system. Around five percent of meteorites found on Earth harbor grains of dust that predate it. We have dated some as far back as 7 billion years. These identifiers were the same as meteorites from before our solar system.

It is possible that other particles exist on Ryugu which predate our solar system. It’s possible that presolar stardust could make up much of the asteroid. It’s difficult to establish the exact composition of this asteroid because it is so distant and sampling missions take so much time. Researchers also discovered evidence that Ryugu contained a delicate silicate. It must have been protected from the Sun’s harmful rays.

Perhaps future missions to Ryugu and other asteroids like it will deliver more valuable information about presolar stardust. And, with a little luck and a ton of research, we may even learn more about the universe before our solar system formed.

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