Space

First glimpse at Hayabusa2's asteroid haul

First glimpse at Hayabusa2's a...
Chamber A of Hayabusa2's sample catcher shows material collected from the surface of asteroid Ryugu
Chamber A of Hayabusa2's sample catcher shows material collected from the surface of asteroid Ryugu
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Chamber A of Hayabusa2's sample catcher shows material collected from the surface of asteroid Ryugu
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Chamber A of Hayabusa2's sample catcher shows material collected from the surface of asteroid Ryugu
Chamber A contains mostly grains of material along with some pebbles larger than 1 mm
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Chamber A contains mostly grains of material along with some pebbles larger than 1 mm
Chamber C collected what are expected to be sub-surface samples from Hayabusa2's second touchdown
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Chamber C collected what are expected to be sub-surface samples from Hayabusa2's second touchdown
No, aluminum wasn't found on Ryugu – this artificial object is thought to be from the sampler
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No, aluminum wasn't found on Ryugu – this artificial object is thought to be from the sampler
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It's rare that gravel gets scientists so excited, but these are no ordinary rocks. They're the samples returned to Earth by Hayabusa2 after its 5.24-billion-km round trip to asteroid Ryugu, and this is our first glimpse at them after the spacecraft landed in the Australian Outback on December 6 and its sample container was transported to Japan.

The images were taken after the first sample chamber, chamber A, was opened on December 15 to reveal material collected from Hayabusa2's first touchdown on Ryugu that took place in February 2019. This sample was collected from the surface of the asteroid and contained many black-colored pebbles larger than 1 mm.

To collect a sub-surface sample, in April 2015 Hayabusa2 deployed the Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) device, which was equipped with a plastic explosive charge that detonated on impact to create an artificial crater around 10 m (33 ft) in diameter on the asteroid. The exposed material was then collected in July 2019.

These sub-surface samples are revealed in the images of chamber C and contain many more larger particles than were collected from Ryugu's surface, some as large as around 1 cm (0.4 in) across. All up, the samples tip the scales at around 5.4 g, which is substantially greater than the 0.1 g required for initial scientific analysis that the mission was targeting.

Images of chamber C also show an "artificial object" that the team suspects is aluminum that separated from the sampler during collection.

No, aluminum wasn't found on Ryugu – this artificial object is thought to be from the sampler
No, aluminum wasn't found on Ryugu – this artificial object is thought to be from the sampler

With the samples now in their possession, JAXA scientists will get down to the business of studying them. Unlike Itokawa, which is an S-type, or siliceous, asteroid from which samples were returned to Earth by the previous Hayabusa probe in 2010, Ryugu is a C-type, or carbonaceous, asteroid that is expected to reveal more about the interplay between minerals, water and organic matter in the primitive solar system, and therefore shed more light on the origin of Earth, the oceans, and life.

But Hayabusa2's asteroid encounters aren't over yet. Its mission has been extended and, after dropping off the Ryugu samples, the probe is on its way for a flyby of fast rotating micro asteroid 2001 CC21 in July 2026, before continuing on its way to rendezvous with asteroid 1998 KY in July 2031, conducting observations of exoplanets and swinging-by Earth along the way, in December 2027 and June 2028.

Source: JAXA

View gallery - 4 images
7 comments
Dan_of_Reason
X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) takes about 2 minutes in a scanning electron microscope (SEM), once set up, about 5 minutes total. Why don't we have the elemental composition data? Speculation is that the scientists determined "we found a rock" which is not good headlines.

Save some of the other particles for search of more Quixotic things; perhaps put them in a Petri dish. My guess is nothing happens, but if I'm wrong, maybe life will spawn.
tkj
A critical question we must have answered relates to the main purpose of the mission, which, as I understand it, to obtain asteroid material that was not affected by the heat experienced by the tons of meteorites that have struck our planet.
This is important, so we learn what substances are present in the 'rocks' that might relate to 'origins of life'...
BUT I did read that the landing device containing the materials did have a crack in it .. and this could conceivably all entry of 'meteoric temperatures' to be experienced by the landing device. If so, that the major goal would not have been obtained....... We'll have to wait for some announcement: I'm sure that the landing container must have had a temperature-recording device ..
We shall hear of this matter, and not soon enough!
tkj
Ahhh!!! our earth's Very First Vuew of actual "Pre-Meteorites" !!! Congratulations !!!
tkj
The sadness is that we have no reports inthe temperature achieved inside the 'rock box' .. Too high, and the main purpose of the experiment was not achieved ...
anthony88
The artificial object looks like a piece of aluminium foil used to make movie set lighting reflectors such as those used by Stanley Kubrick to film the Moon landings, and tin-foil hats.
WB
how do we know this is real? would be so easy to fake.... I mean we saw a rocket blast off... and then some big claims and then some rocks found in the Australian desert... someone could have just bought a ticket Japan to Australia... and pocketed all the japan space money...
Douglas Bennett Rogers
There is serious interest in asteroid mining, of which this is the first step. A fake mission would serve no purpose.