Sunday, 07 March, 2021


Japan confirms asteroid gas sample from Hayabusa2 probe

Supplied image shows an illustration of the Hayabusa2 space probe touching down at an artificial crater on the Ryugu asteroid Supplied image shows an illustration of the Hayabusa2 space probe touching down at an artificial crater on the Ryugu asteroid
Kristine Garrett | 16 December, 2020, 17:06

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) did it in 2010, when the Hayabusa probe returned samples from asteroid Itokawa, and now again, with Hayabusa2 successfully delivering the goods from asteroid Ryugu, as JAXA confirmed in a press release issued yesterday.

Speaking at an online news conference on Tuesday, researchers from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said that a number of blackish, sandy particles have been observed inside a storage device from the capsule that landed in an Australian desert on December 6. It also confirmed that a gas sample inside the collector "differed from the atmospheric composition of the Earth", confirming that it also came from the squarish asteroid.

Scientists say they believe the samples, especially ones taken from under the asteroid's surface, contain valuable data unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors that could provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on our planet. "These are believed to be particles attached to the inlet of the sample collector (the container in which the sample is stored)".

Black grains, right, thought to be from Ryugu are inside the sample container of the re-entry capsule of Hayabusa2, in Sagamihara, near Tokyo.

In addition to surface dust, the probe also gathered pristine material from below the surface - which the probe stirred to the surface when it fired an "impactor" into the asteroid.

Scientists are also interested in knowing whether asteroids like Ryugu have a lot of water, and also if they do Mysterious seed-like rocks They are called chondrules.

The first landing collected samples from Ryugu's surface and the second from underground.

It was likely to have been liberated by the soil collected from Ryugu and is the world's first sample of gas returned from deep space.

Sei-ichiro Watanabe, a Nagoya University earth and environment scientist working with JAXA, said having more sample material to work with than expected is great news as it will expand the scope of studies.

Hayabusa2 collected the samples over a year and a half of poking and prodding Ryugu - a small asteroid shaped like a squashed sphere, peppered with giant boulders3.

The second event was Particularly noticeableBecause the spacecraft had previously blown a hole in the asteroid to reveal virgin material beneath the surface for an attempt to collect.

JAXA launched Hayabusa2 in 2014, and it didn't reach its target until 2018.

Two days later, on December 8, the capsule was transported to the Sagamihara Campus in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, where scientists are now in the process of opening it.

Some 10% of the material will be sent to NASA in December 2021 in exchange for samples from asteroid Bennu, which spacecraft OSIRIS-Rex collected in October and should arrive on Earth by late 2023.

The container of the capsule was just as big as the toaster.

But the main part of the mission is always to return the sample to Earth. Now that a sample is confirmed in the capsule, the exciting analysis of the sample can soon begin.

An initial inspection at a quick check facility in Australia detected unidentified gases from the capsule, a sign they are related to solar wind or samples from Ryugu.

And who knows what secrets lie in wait from this fascinating mission.

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