Gifts of a Japanese spacecraft: Asteroid chips like coal

This photo, provided by the Japan Space Agency (JAXA) on Thursday, December 24, 2020, shows soil samples seen in Section A of the capsule brought by Hayabusa2, in Sagamihara, near Tokyo. Japanese space officials said Thursday that they had found more soil samples of asteroids collected and returned from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft, in addition to the black sand granules they found last week, raising hopes of finding traces of the solar system’s origins. (JAXA via AP)

They resemble small fragments of coal, but soil samples collected from asteroids and returned to Earth by a Japanese spacecraft were hardly disappointing.

The samples described by Japanese space officials on Thursday are up to 1 centimeter (0.4 inches) in size and are hard as stone, not cracking when picked up or poured into another container. Smaller black, sand granules that the spacecraft collected and returned separately were described last week.

Last year, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft received two sets of samples from two locations on the asteroid Ryugu, more than 300 million kilometers (190 million miles) from Earth. They were thrown from space at a target in the Australian hinterland, and the samples were brought to Japan in early December.

The sand pellets described by the Japan Space Research Agency last week were from the first landing of the spacecraft in April 2019.

The larger fragments are from the section allocated for the second touch of Ryugu, said Tomohiro Usui, a space materials scientist.

To get a second set of samples in July last year, Hayabusa2 threw an impact element to explode beneath the asteroid’s surface, collecting material from the crafter so it would not be affected by space radiation and other environmental factors.

  • Gifts of a Japanese spacecraft: Asteroid chips like coal

    This optical microscope photograph, provided by the Japan Space Research Agency (JAXA) on Thursday, December 24, 2020, shows soil samples seen in the C section of the capsule that Hayabusa2 brought back to Sagamihara, near Tokyo. Japanese space officials said Thursday that they had found more soil samples of asteroids collected and returned from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft, in addition to the black sand granules they found last week, raising hopes of finding traces of the solar system’s origins. (JAXA via AP)

  • Gifts of a Japanese spacecraft: Asteroid chips like coal

    In this file, on December 8, 2020, Japanese Space Research Agency (JAXA) project manager Hayabusa2 Yuichi Tsuda speaks during a press conference after an asteroid soil sample capsule returned to Japan, in Sagamihara, near Tokyo. Japanese space agency officials said on Tuesday (December 15th) that they found more than the predicted amount of soil and gases in a small capsule returned by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft from a distant asteroid this month, a mission they praised as a milestone for planetary exploration. (Yu Nakajima / Kyodo News via AP, file)

  • Gifts of a Japanese spacecraft: Asteroid chips like coal

    This photo provided by the Japan Space Agency (JAXA) shows soil samples, seen in a container of a return capsule brought back by Hayabusa2 to Sagamihara, near Tokyo, on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. Space agency officials released on Tuesday that they found more than the expected amount of soil and gases in a small capsule that the Hayabusa2 spacecraft, returned from a distant asteroid this month, returned a sample they praised as a milestone for planetary research. (JAXA via AP)

  • Gifts of a Japanese spacecraft: Asteroid chips like coal

    This photo, provided by the Japan Space Agency (JAXA), shows soil samples, seen in a container of a return capsule brought back by Hayabusa2 to Sagamihara, near Tokyo, on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. Japanese space agency officials said on Tuesday that they found more than the predicted amount of soil and gases in a small capsule returned by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft from a distant asteroid this month, a sample return mission that they praised as a milestone for planetary research. (JAXA via AP)

Usui said the differences in size suggest different hardness of the bedrock on the asteroid. “One possibility is that the site of the second contact was a hard surface, and larger particles broke and entered the compartment.”

JAXA continues initial testing of asteroid samples ahead of more complete studies next year. Scientists hope that the samples will provide insight into the origin of the solar system and life on Earth. After studying in Japan, some of the samples will be shared with NASA and other international space agencies for further research.

Meanwhile, Hayabusa2 is on an eleven-year expedition to another small and distant asteroid, 1998KY26, to try to study a possible defense against meteorites that could fly toward Earth.


The Japanese space agency has found enough soil, gas from the asteroid


© 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or distributed without permission.

Citation: Gifts of the Japanese spacecraft: Asteroid chips like coal (2020, December 24) downloaded on December 24, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-12-japanese-spacecraft-gifts-asteroid-chips.html

This document is protected by copyright. Except for any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is available for informational purposes only.

Source