Water could have been brought to Earth by asteroids from the outer reaches of the solar system, scientists said after analyzing rare samples collected during Japan’s six-year space mission.

In an effort to shed light on the origin of life and the formation of the universe, researchers are closely studying the material delivered to earth in 2020 from the asteroid Ryugu.

5.4 grams (0.2 oz) of rocks and dust were collected by a Japanese space probe called Hayabusa-2, which landed on the celestial body and fired an “impactor” into its surface.

Studies of this material are beginning to be published, and in June one group of researchers said they had found organic material that showed that some of the building blocks of life on Earth, amino acids, may have formed in space.

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In a new paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists say the Ryugu samples may provide clues to the mystery of how oceans formed on Earth billions of years ago.

“Volatile and organic-rich C-type asteroids may have been one of the main sources of water on Earth,” according to a study by scientists from Japan and other countries published on Monday.

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“The delivery of volatiles (that is, organics and water) to Earth is still a matter of considerable debate,” it said.

But the organic materials found “in the Ryugu particles identified in this study are likely to be one important source of the volatiles.”

The scientists suggested that such material was likely of “external solar system origin,” but said it was “unlikely the only source of volatiles delivered to the early Earth.”

Hayabusa-2 launched in 2014 on its mission to Ryuga, about 300 million kilometers away, and returned to Earth orbit two years ago to release a sample capsule.

In a study in Nature Astronomy, researchers again welcomed the findings made possible by the mission.

“Ryugu particles are undoubtedly some of the most uncontaminated Solar System material available for laboratory study, and ongoing studies of these precious samples will undoubtedly advance our understanding of the early processes of the Solar System,” the study said.

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