Japan's Hayabusa 2 Spacecraft Is Getting Closer And Closer To Asteroid Ryugu

Posted: Jun 22 2018, 10:31am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Japan's Hayabusa 2 Spacecraft is Getting Closer and Closer to Asteroid Ryugu
Credit: JAXA

The spacecraft, which is on its way to Asteroid Ryugu, is expected to bring back soil samples in 2020

Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft has taken the closest images yet of a nearby asteroid called Ryugu. The images were obtained by an onboard camera ONC-T and reveal defining characteristics of the object. The spacecraft was approximately 220 kilometers from Ryugu on June 18. By June 20, the distance decreased to about 100 km.

Launched in 2014, Hayabusa 2 is a rectangular spacecraft with two sets of solar panels on its sides. The spacecraft is expected to reach asteroid Ryugu in mid-2018 and will study its surface for about 18 months by using a robotic rover.

Asteroid Ryugu, also known as 1999 JU3, is approximately 900 meters wide and looks like a giant dumpling. The asteroid is named after a mythical castle in a Japanese folktale. The surface of the asteroid is dotted with crater-like features. These features are likely caused by collisions between the asteroid and other celestial bodies.

“As we approached Ryugu and were able to distinguish individual features in the asteroid's topology, it became clear that Ryugu has a land of rich terrain. Numerous clusters of rock roll on the surface. Among these, a large rocky mass (about 150m across) stands out on the upper part of Ryugu due to its brighter color (higher reflectivity). The belt-shaped ring of peaks that surround the equator is also slightly brighter than their surroundings. This color difference may reflect a difference in material composition and the size of the particles that form the rock. We can also see many sunken regions that look like craters.” Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said in a statement.

In 2010, the Hayabusa 2 predecessor completed a mission to the asteroid Itokawa and studied its shape, topography, composition and other aspects. But the most exciting part of its mission was to bring back mineral samples from the asteroid. Although Hayabusa spacecraft was plagued by technical problems, it did land on the asteroid Itokawa and managed to collect tiny grains of material from its surface.

If successful, Hayabusa 2 will also collect soil samples from asteroid Ryugu and return to Earth in late 2020.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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