Japan's Hayabusa2 space probe has found hydrated minerals on the Ryugu asteroid, a discovery that could move forward the mission of the spacecraft to bring back samples for studying the origins of Earth's water, according to a group of researchers.
A team of researchers from the University of Aizu, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and other institutions said in the online version of Science magazine published Tuesday that the spacecraft's near-infrared spectrometer discovered "hydroxyl-bearing minerals are ubiquitous" on Ryugu's surface.
Ryugu is classified as a C-type asteroid, which is believed to contain organic substances and water with remnants of the primitive solar system.
As scientists believe asteroids may have delivered water to Earth, Hayabusa2's main mission is to collect and bring back rock samples by the end of next year to help verify the hypothesis.
"The decision to choose Ryugu as the destination, based on the prediction that there is some water, was not wrong," said Kohei Kitazato, an associate professor at the University of Aizu.
The hypothesis could be proven true if the water from the asteroid has a similar composition of isotopes to that of water on Earth.
It marks the first discovery revealed since the successful touchdown by the space probe on the asteroid, 340 million kilometers away from Earth, to collect first samples on Feb. 22.
Rock samples from Ryugu could also contain some organic substances, which can be building blocks of life.