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September 18,2023

Thermo Fisher Scientific K.K.
HORIBA Advanced Techno, Co., Ltd.
Tokyo Institute of Technology

Discovery of primordial "salts" and organic sulfur molecules in the asteroid Ryugu

1. Key Points

When various solvents were used to extract the soluble components of the samples collected from the surface asteroid Ryugu; the hot water extract, which reflects the most soluble components, contained a large amount of sodium ions (Na+).
A wide variety of organic sulfur molecules were newly identified using ion chromatography/ultra-high-resolution mass spectrometry. The study traced chemical evolution through water-organic matter-mineral reactions, from primitive organic matter to molecular groups with hydrophilic and amphipathic properties.
The results of the study provide important insights into how materials existed in the solar system before the formation of the Earth, as well as the origin and evolution of materials that make up the Earth, the oceans, and life.

2. Overview

An international joint research group consisting of Senior Scientist Toshihiro Yoshimura and Deputy Director, Principal Scientist Yoshinori Takano of the Biogeochemistry Research Center at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Professor Hiroshi Naraoka of the Faculty of Science at Kyushu University and others, together with researchers from the School of Science of the University of Tokyo, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, HORIBA Advanced Techno, Co., Ltd., HORIBA Techno Service Co., Ltd., Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., Hokkaido University, and Tokyo Institute of Technology, extracted soluble components in samples from the asteroid Ryugu, performed detailed chemical analyses and revealed the composition, content, and other information.

The asteroid Ryugu is one of the primordial celestial bodies that retain the chemical composition of the entire solar system before the birth of the Earth. Although initial analysis by the Hayabusa2 team previously revealed a variety of properties, contents, history, and other information, the material information of the ionic components among the soluble components was unclear.

Thus, this research group extracted soluble components from samples of the asteroid Ryugu and performed detailed chemical analyses at the inorganic and organic molecular levels. This revealed that, the hot water extract, which reflects the most soluble components, contains a very large amount of sodium ions (Na+). Sodium ions act as electrolytes that stabilize the surface charge of minerals and organic materials, and some of them are believed to precipitate as sodium salts (salts) by bonding to organic and other molecules. Various organic sulfur molecules were also found in the extract. Changes in chemical state due to dissolution in the water in the asteroid Ryugu likely resulted in chemical evolution into a variety of organic sulfur molecules.

These results not only shed light on the material evolution of the early solar system but also provide important insights to answer the critical question of how the chemical processes were controlled that ultimately led to the birth of life.

The findings of this study will be published in the scientific journal "Nature Communications" on September 18, 2023 (Japan time).


The asteroid explorer "Hayabusa2" delivers samples containing primordial salts and new sulfur molecules present on the asteroid Ryugu to Earth (©JAMSTEC).

The water (H2O) contained in the asteroid Ryugu was probably repeatedly frozen and thawed during its evolution within the solar system, eluting and precipitating salts contained in minerals. Analysis of the soluble components will shed light on how the first "salts" were formed.

Chemical evolution of primordial salts and organic sulfur molecules in the asteroid 162173 Ryugu

Toshihiro Yoshimura1※, Yoshinori Takano1※, Hiroshi Naraoka2, Toshiki Koga1, Daisuke Araoka3, Nanako Ogawa1, Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin4,5, Norbert Hertkorn4, Yasuhiro Oba6, Jason P. Dworkin7, José C. Aponte7, Takaaki Yoshikawa8, Satoru Tanaka9, Naohiko Ohkouchi1, Minako Hashiguchi10, Hannah McLain7, Eric T. Parker7, Saburo Sakai1, Mihoko Yamaguchi11, Takahiro Suzuki11, Tetsuya Yokoyama12, Hisayoshi Yurimoto13, Tomoki Nakamura14, Takaaki Noguchi15, Ryuji Okazaki2, Hikaru Yabuta16, Kanako Sakamoto17, Toru Yada17, Masahiro Nishimura17, Aiko Nakato17, Akiko Miyazaki17, Kasumi Yogata17, Masanao Abe17, Tatsuaki Okada17, Tomohiro Usui17, Makoto Yoshikawa17, Takanao Saiki17, Satoshi Tanaka17, Fuyuto Terui18, Satoru Nakazawa17, Sei-ichiro Watanabe10, Yuichi Tsuda17, Shogo Tachibana17,19, Hayabusa2- initial-analysis SOM team

1. Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC)
2. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Kyushu University
3. Geological Survey of Japan (GSJ), National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST)
4. Helmholtz Zentrum München, Analytical BioGeoChemistry
5. Technische Universität München, Analytische Lebensmittel Chemie
6. Institute of Low Temperature Science (ILTS), Hokkaido University
7. Solar System Exploration Division, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
8. HORIBA Advanced Techno, Co., Ltd.,
9. HORIBA Techno Service Co., Ltd.
10. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Nagoya University
11. Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.
12. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Tokyo Institute of Technology
13. Creative Research Institution (CRIS), Hokkaido University
14. Department of Earth Science, Tohoku University
15. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Kyoto University
16. Earth and Planetary Systems Science Program, Hiroshima University
17. Institute of Space and Astro-nautical Science, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (ISAS/JAXA)
18. Kanagawa Institute of Technology
19. UTokyo Organization for Planetary and Space Science (UTOPS), University of Tokyo
※ Co-first authorship


(For this study)
Toshihiro Yoshimura, Researcher, Research Institute for Marine Resources Utilization (MRU) Biogeochemistry Research Center (BGC) Bioelement Dynamics Research Group, JAMSTEC

Yoshinori Takano, Principal Researcher, Research Institute for Marine Resources Utilization (MRU) Biogeochemistry Research Center (BGC), JAMSTEC

(For press release)
Press Office, Marine Science and Technology Strategy Department, JAMSTEC

Kyushu University Public Relations Office

National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology
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Public Relations & Communications Division, Office of Public Relations and Social Collaboration, Hokkaido University

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