Scientists at Kyoto University have discovered that nitrogen, which gave rise to life on Earth, is of extraterrestrial origin. The results of these scientists' work were published in the Nature Astronomy journal.
Nitrogen was a rare element in the solar system during the formation of the Earth. However, far from the Sun it was quite a lot. Scientists knew that micrometeoroids from asteroids could be a source of nitrogen on Earth. To prove or disprove this, the authors studied magnetite grains in samples of the surface of asteroid Ryugu and found nitrogen compounds on their surface.
Ryugu is a near-Earth asteroid whose orbit crosses the orbits of both Earth and Mars. In late 2014, the Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft went there, arrived in Ryugu in 2018, and successfully took soil samples from it.
The results of the analysis of this asteroid showed that nitrogen was brought to Earth from the outer regions of the Solar System. Under the influence of solar wind particles and micrometeorites, chemical reactions occur in the rock, during which a stable nitrogen compound, the iron nitride, is formed.