Japan's space probe fires shell at asteroid to study its composition

Spacecraft Hayabusa2 found asteroid Ryugu "fluffy," according to scientists.


NSFW    TOKYO — Launched in late 2012, Japan's spacecraft Hayabusa2 was sent to investigate asteroid Ryugu by lobbing a copper shell into the space rock. Japan's space agency JAXA published the probe's findings in the journal Science on March 19.

According to JAXA, the Hayabusa is 0.6m across the front, 0.4m from prow to stern, and has four ion thrusters. The spacecraft is equipped with X- and Ka-band antennas for communication and its sensors include optics, LIDAR and spectrometers.

According to the study, the Small Carry-on Impactor shell blasted a semicircular crater 14m wide and 0.6m deep, with the shock apparently absorbed by boulders. This confirms that Ruygu is indeed a rubble-pile, or boulders loosely held together by sandy materials.

The impact experiment suggests the most ancient materials of the asteroid are up to 4.6 billion years old, but the substance coalesced with other asteroids' remains only 10 million years ago to form Ryugu.
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