Japan's space agency has confirmed one of its space probes which landed in outback Australia earlier this year brought back dust from the surface of an asteroid.
Scientists hope the particles, recovered after a seven-year voyage through space, will help unlock secrets of the solar system's formation.
The unmanned craft Hayabusa, meaning 'falcon' in Japanese, was destroyed on re-entry in June, but managed to drop a container bearing the world's first sample of asteroid dust after landing on the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa in 2005.
Australia played a part in the recovery of the probe when it crashed to Earth in June near Woomera in South Australia.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) says the particles may offer clues about how the solar system was formed 4.6 billion years ago.
Asteroids are believed to have retained their original state over time, unlike the Earth's surface, which has been affected by atmospheric changes, water and volcanic activity.
"There is so much that humans don't know, such as how the Moon was formed," a JAXA spokesman said.
"But research, not just into these particles but into other findings, could provide us with hints on how the solar system and the planets were formed."
JAXA says parts of the sample will be distributed to researchers around the world for further tests.
Most of the particles were smaller than one-100th of a millimetre and components included minerals such as olivine, pyroxene and plagioclases.
Scientists also hope the findings will shed light on the risk to Earth from asteroid impacts.