Japanese scientists say they understand where the Ryugu asteroid comes from


The Japanese space shuttle Hayabusa2 has been dragging for several months around the asteroid called Ryugu. He arrived for the first time at the end of 2018 and, in February, fired a projectile at his surface to collect a sample of the rock. There is still a lot of work to be done, but things are progressing well.

Now, after learning more about the asteroid itself, Japanese scientists believe they know where this object comes from, thereby reducing its possible "parents" of asteroids to a pair of larger rocks. Definitively determining the origins of Ryugu will not be easy, but the color of the asteroid has helped the researchers to clarify things a little.

In a new research paper published in Science, an international team of scientists describes various features they have seen through Hayabusa images2.

They were able to determine if Ryugu's parent body had at least ice on its surface and possibly "organic molecules".

Ryugu's surface has an unusually low albedo or 2% reflectance, so in our eyes it is darker than coal.
Ryugu's surface has an unusually low albedo or 2% reflectance, so in our eyes it is darker than coal.© 2019 Seiji Sugita et al., Science

Ryugu is incredibly dark in every way and is thought to be one of the darkest objects in our entire solar system. It may be hard to believe when you see images taken by Hayabusa2, but it's important to remember that the tools with which the probe is equipped were designed specifically to capture the details of the dark surface of the rock.

As Science News reports, the color of the rock also helped scientists find their potential parents up to two other known asteroids.

The first is an asteroid 55 km wide called Polana and the second is a smaller rock 37 km wide called Eulalia. Both are much larger than Ryugu, 900 meters wide, and have similar characteristics.

Hayabusa2 will eventually return to Earth, but only after collecting additional samples from Ryugu.

These samples will provide researchers with a good understanding of the rock's past and will probably help them better understand their parent.


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