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Uracil Has Been Found In Asteroid Ryugu Samples





Researchers have analyzed samples of asteroid Ryugu collected by the Japanese Space Agency’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft and found uracil—one of the informational units that make up RNA, the molecules that contain the instructions for how to build and operate living organisms. Nicotinic acid, also known as Vitamin B3 or niacin, which is an important cofactor for metabolism in living organisms, was also detected in the same samples.


This discovery by an international team, led by Associate Professor Yasuhiro Oba at Hokkaido University, adds to the evidence that important building blocks for life are created in space and could have been delivered to Earth by meteorites. The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

“Scientists have previously found nucleobases and vitamins in certain carbon-rich meteorites, but there was always the question of contamination by exposure to the Earth’s environment,” Oba explained. “Since the Hayabusa2 spacecraft collected two samples directly from asteroid Ryugu and delivered them to Earth in sealed capsules, contamination can be ruled out.”


The researchers extracted these molecules by soaking the Ryugu particles in hot water, followed by analyses using liquid chromatography coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry. This revealed the presence of uracil and nicotinic acid, as well as other nitrogen-containing organic compounds.

“We found uracil in the samples in small amounts, in the range of 6–32 parts per billion (ppb), while vitamin B3 was more abundant, in the range of 49–99 ppb,” Oba elaborated. “Other biological molecules were found in the sample as well, including a selection of amino acids, amines and carboxylic acids, which are found in proteins and metabolism, respectively.” The compounds detected are similar but not identical to those previously discovered in carbon-rich meteorites.

The team hypothesizes that the difference in concentrations in the two samples, collected from different locations on Ryugu, is likely due to the exposure to the extreme environments of space. They also hypothesized that the nitrogen-containing compounds were, at least in part, formed from the simpler molecules such as ammonia, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide. While these were not detected in the Ryugu samples, they are known to be present in cometary ice—and Ryugu could have originated as a comet or another parent body which had been present in low temperature environments.

“The discovery of uracil in the samples from Ryugu lends strength to current theories regarding the source of nucleobases in the early Earth,” Oba concludes. “The OSIRIS-REx mission by NASA will be returning samples from asteroid Bennu this year, and a comparative study of the composition of these asteroids will provide further data to build on these theories.”


Associate Professor Yasuhiro Oba
Institute of Low Temperature Science
Hokkaido University
Tel: +81-11-706-5500

Sohail Keegan Pinto (International Public Relations Specialist)
Public Relations Division
Hokkaido University
Tel: +81-11-706-2186


Yasuhiro Oba, et al. Uracil in the carbonaceous asteroid (162173) Ryugu. Nature Communications. March 21, 2023.

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-36904-3


The Hayabusa2 project has been led by JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) in collaboration with DLR (German Space Center) and CNES (French Space Center) and supported by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and ASA (Australian Space Agency). This research is partly supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) under KAKENHI (21H04501, 21H05414, 21J00504, 21KK0062, 20H00202); the Consortium for Hayabusa2 Analysis of Organic Solubles, supported by NASA. This study was partly conducted by the official collaboration agreement through the joint research project with JAMSTEC, Keio University and HMT Inc. This study was conducted in accordance with the Joint Research Promotion Project at the Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University (21G008, 22G008).

Astrobiology, Astrochemistry


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New image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows thousands upon thousands of stars in a galaxy 17 million light years away – Yahoo Canada



Every single dot you see is a star. There are thousands upon thousands of stars in this image from the James Webb Space Telescope.ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST Team

  • The James Webb Space Telescope snapped a new image of a galaxy 17 million light-years away.

  • Thousands upon thousands of stars are visible, many of which are concentrated in the galaxy’s heart.

  • JWST is peering into the hearts of many galaxies to help scientists better understand star formation.

With the power of the James Webb Space Telescope, we can peer into the mysterious hearts of galaxies. And that’s exactly what you’re seeing here, in this new image from Webb of the galaxy NGC 5068.

NGC 5068 is located about 17 million light-years from Earth. For perspective, the Milky Way’s neighborhood of galaxies called the Local Group, is 5 million light-years away. So, this galaxy is beyond what we might consider close.

Each individual dot of white light you can see is a star, per Mashable. NASA said there are thousands upon thousands of stars in this image. And many of them are hanging out at the galaxy’s center, which you can see in the upper left as a bright bar of white light.

Skitched photo showing a red circle pointing to the center of galaxy NGC 5068.Skitched photo showing a red circle pointing to the center of galaxy NGC 5068.

The bright bar in the upper left of the image is where the most stars are concentrated.ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST Team

This region appears so bright because that’s where most of the stars are concentrated. That’s also where all the action is.

James Webb peers into the hearts of many galaxies to uncover their secrets

Most galaxies have an ultra-bright center due to warm dust that’s heated by massive bursts of star formation, according to the Harvard Smithsonian. And it’s this star formation that astronomers are interested in studying more with the help of JWST.

In fact, NGC 5068 is just one in a series of other galaxies Webb is observing for a project to help us better understand star formation. Webb has also taken images of the spiral galaxy IC 5332:

Picture of a spiral galaxy taken from James Webb Space Telescope. The spirals look like spider webs dotted by pink gaseous regions throughout the image.Picture of a spiral galaxy taken from James Webb Space Telescope. The spirals look like spider webs dotted by pink gaseous regions throughout the image.

The James Webb Telescope is peering into the hearts of many galaxies to help astronomers gain a better understanding of star formation, especially in the turbulent environments of galactic cores.ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST and PHANGS-HST Teams

And the heart of galaxy M74, aka the “Phantom Galaxy”:

Blue heart of the Phantom Galaxy seen from the Webb Telescope.Blue heart of the Phantom Galaxy seen from the Webb Telescope.

The James Webb Space Telescope sees objects in infrared wavelengths, which allows it to peer past obstructive light that would otherwise block our ability to see into the hearts of galaxies.ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST Team./J. Schmidt

The James Webb Space Telescope has the advantage of seeing in the infrared.

Infrared wavelengths are too long for the human eye to detect. But they’re especially important for studying in space because they allow JWST to peer past obstructive visual light that would otherwise block our ability to see into the hearts of galaxies and their bustling environments of star formation.

“By observing the formation of stars in nearby galaxies, astronomers hope to kick-start major scientific advances with some of the first available data from Webb,” NASA said.

Watch a video of NGC 5068 below:

Read the original article on Business Insider

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ESA – Nicolas Bobrinsky on innovation and risk management | ESA Masterclass – European Space Agency



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Behind Galactic Bars: Webb Telescope Unlocks Secrets of Star Formation




This image of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 5068 is a composite from two of the James Webb Space Telescope’s instruments, MIRI and NIRCam. Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST Team


<span class=”glossaryLink” aria-describedby=”tt” data-cmtooltip=”

Established in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Its vision is &quot;To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.&quot; Its core values are &quot;safety, integrity, teamwork, excellence, and inclusion.&quot; NASA conducts research, develops technology and launches missions to explore and study Earth, the solar system, and the universe beyond. It also works to advance the state of knowledge in a wide range of scientific fields, including Earth and space science, planetary science, astrophysics, and heliophysics, and it collaborates with private companies and international partners to achieve its goals.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”]”>NASA’s <span class=”glossaryLink” aria-describedby=”tt” data-cmtooltip=”

James Webb Space Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST or Webb) is an orbiting infrared observatory that will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope. It covers longer wavelengths of light, with greatly improved sensitivity, allowing it to see inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today as well as looking further back in time to observe the first galaxies that formed in the early universe.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”]”>James Webb Space Telescope has captured a detailed image of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 5068. Part of a project to record star formation in nearby galaxies, this initiative provides significant insights into various astronomical fields. The telescope’s ability to see through gas and dust, typically hiding star formation processes, offers unique views into this crucial aspect of galactic evolution.

A delicate tracery of dust and bright star clusters threads across this image from the James Webb Space Telescope. The bright tendrils of gas and stars belong to the barred spiral galaxy NGC 5068, whose bright central bar is visible in the upper left of this image – a composite from two of Webb’s instruments. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson revealed the image on June 2 during an event with students at the Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, Poland.


In this image of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 5068, from the James Webb Space Telescope’s MIRI instrument, the dusty structure of the spiral galaxy and glowing bubbles of gas containing newly-formed star clusters are particularly prominent. Three asteroid trails intrude into this image, represented as tiny blue-green-red dots. Asteroids appear in astronomical images such as these because they are much closer to the telescope than the distant target. As Webb captures several images of the astronomical object, the asteroid moves, so it shows up in a slightly different place in each frame. They are a little more noticeable in images such as this one from MIRI, because many stars are not as bright in mid-infrared wavelengths as they are in near-infrared or visible light, so asteroids are easier to see next to the stars. One trail lies just below the galaxy’s bar, and two more in the bottom-left corner. Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST Team


NGC 5068 lies around 20 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo. This image of the central, bright star-forming regions of the galaxy is part of a campaign to create an astronomical treasure trove, a repository of observations of star formation in nearby galaxies. Previous gems from this collection can be seen here (IC 5332) and here (M74). These observations are particularly valuable to astronomers for two reasons. The first is because star formation underpins so many fields in astronomy, from the physics of the tenuous <span class=”glossaryLink” aria-describedby=”tt” data-cmtooltip=”

Plasma is one of the four fundamental states of matter, along with solid, liquid, and gas. It is an ionized gas consisting of positive ions and free electrons. It was first described by chemist Irving Langmuir in the 1920s.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”]”>plasma that lies between stars to the evolution of entire galaxies. By observing the formation of stars in nearby galaxies, astronomers hope to kick-start major scientific advances with some of the first available data from Webb.

NGC 5068 Webb NIRCam

This view of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 5068, from the James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam instrument, is studded by the galaxy’s massive population of stars, most dense along its bright central bar, along with burning red clouds of gas illuminated by young stars within. This near-infrared image of the galaxy is filled by the enormous gathering of older stars which make up the core of NGC 5068. The keen vision of NIRCam allows astronomers to peer through the galaxy’s gas and dust to closely examine its stars. Dense and bright clouds of dust lie along the path of the spiral arms: These are H II regions, collections of hydrogen gas where new stars are forming. The young, energetic stars ionize the hydrogen around them, creating this glow represented in red. Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST Team


The second reason is that Webb’s observations build on other studies using telescopes including the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories. Webb collected images of 19 nearby star-forming galaxies which astronomers could then combine with Hubble images of 10,000 star clusters, spectroscopic mapping of 20,000 star-forming emission nebulae from the <span class=”glossaryLink” aria-describedby=”tt” data-cmtooltip=”

Very Large Telescope
The Very Large Telescope array (VLT) is a visible and infrared wavelength telescope facility operated by the European Southern Observatory on Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. It is the world’s most advanced optical instrument, consisting of four Unit Telescopes with main mirrors of 8.2m diameter and four movable 1.8m diameter Auxiliary Telescopes.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”]”>Very Large Telescope (VLT), and observations of 12,000 dark, dense molecular clouds identified by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). These observations span the electromagnetic spectrum and give astronomers an unprecedented opportunity to piece together the minutiae of star formation.

With its ability to peer through the gas and dust enshrouding newborn stars, Webb is particularly well-suited to explore the processes governing star formation. Stars and planetary systems are born amongst swirling clouds of gas and dust that are opaque to visible-light observatories like Hubble or the VLT. The keen vision at infrared wavelengths of two of Webb’s instruments — MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) and NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) — allowed astronomers to see right through the gargantuan clouds of dust in NGC 5068 and capture the processes of star formation as they happened. This image combines the capabilities of these two instruments, providing a truly unique look at the composition of NGC 5068.

The James Webb Space Telescope stands as the apex of space science observatories worldwide. Tasked with demystifying enigmas within our own solar system, Webb will also extend its gaze beyond, seeking to observe distant worlds orbiting other stars. In addition to this, it aims to delve into the cryptic structures and the origins of our universe, thereby facilitating a deeper understanding of our position within the cosmic expanse. The Webb project is an international endeavor spearheaded by NASA, conducted in close partnership with the <span class=”glossaryLink” aria-describedby=”tt” data-cmtooltip=”

European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration and study of space. ESA was established in 1975 and has 22 member states, with its headquarters located in Paris, France. ESA is responsible for the development and coordination of Europe’s space activities, including the design, construction, and launch of spacecraft and satellites for scientific research and Earth observation. Some of ESA’s flagship missions have included the Rosetta mission to study a comet, the Gaia mission to create a 3D map of the Milky Way, and the ExoMars mission to search for evidence of past or present life on Mars.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”]”>European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.




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