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Many carbon-based molecules identified in Ryugu samples

Researchers in Japan, Europe, and the U.S. have now identified many carbon-based molecules in the Ryugu samples brought back to Earth by Japan’s Hayabusa-2 asteroid probe. From their paper, published in Science yesterday:

We identified numerous organic molecules in the Ryugu samples. Mass spectroscopy detected hundreds of thousands of ion signals, which we assigned to ~20,000 elementary compositions consisting of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and/or sulfur. Fifteen amino acids, including glycine, alanine, and α-aminobutyric acid, were identified. These were present as racemic mixtures (equal right- and left-handed abundances), consistent with an abiotic origin. Aliphatic amines (such as methylamine) and carboxylic acids (such as acetic acid) were also detected, likely retained on Ryugu as organic salts.

The presence of aromatic hydrocarbons, including alkylbenzenes, fluoranthene, and pyrene, implies hydrothermal processing on Ryugu’s parent body and/or presolar synthesis in the interstellar medium. Nitrogen-containing heterocyclic compounds were identified as their alkylated homologs, which could have been synthesized from simple aldehydes and ammonia. In situ analysis of a grain surface showed heterogeneous spatial distribution of alkylated homologs of nitrogen- and/or oxygen-containing compounds.

The large number of carbon-based molecules is not unlike data from similar carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, though the differences appear to suggest Ryugu experienced chemical processes in connection with water during its lifetime.

Note for clarity: Organic molecules are not life. This is a term scientists use for any carbon-based molecule.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. All editions can also be purchased direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

One comment

  • Phill O

    There is a cosmic origin of earth’s hydrocarbons. Some would argue there is not a biological intermediary necessary to explain the carbon reserves!

    Left and right – handedness refers to how the compounds rotate polarized light. In order for this to happen, the must be 4 differing moieties attached to the central carbon (the center of chirality).

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