The surface composition of asteroid 162173 Ryugu from Hayabusa2 near-infrared spectroscopy

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Science  19 Apr 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6437, pp. 272-275
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav7432

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Hayabusa2 at the asteroid Ryugu

Asteroids fall to Earth in the form of meteorites, but these provide little information about their origins. The Japanese mission Hayabusa2 is designed to collect samples directly from the surface of an asteroid and return them to Earth for laboratory analysis. Three papers in this issue describe the Hayabusa2 team's study of the near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid 162173 Ryugu, at which the spacecraft arrived in June 2018 (see the Perspective by Wurm). Watanabe et al. measured the asteroid's mass, shape, and density, showing that it is a “rubble pile” of loose rocks, formed into a spinning-top shape during a prior period of rapid spin. They also identified suitable landing sites for sample collection. Kitazato et al. used near-infrared spectroscopy to find ubiquitous hydrated minerals on the surface and compared Ryugu with known types of carbonaceous meteorite. Sugita et al. describe Ryugu's geological features and surface colors and combined results from all three papers to constrain the asteroid's formation process. Ryugu probably formed by reaccumulation of rubble ejected by impact from a larger asteroid. These results provide necessary context to understand the samples collected by Hayabusa2, which are expected to arrive on Earth in December 2020.

Science, this issue p. 268, p. 272, p. 252; see also p. 230


The near-Earth asteroid 162173 Ryugu, the target of the Hayabusa2 sample-return mission, is thought to be a primitive carbonaceous object. We report reflectance spectra of Ryugu’s surface acquired with the Near-Infrared Spectrometer (NIRS3) on Hayabusa2, to provide direct measurements of the surface composition and geological context for the returned samples. A weak, narrow absorption feature centered at 2.72 micrometers was detected across the entire observed surface, indicating that hydroxyl (OH)–bearing minerals are ubiquitous there. The intensity of the OH feature and low albedo are similar to thermally and/or shock-metamorphosed carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. There are few variations in the OH-band position, which is consistent with Ryugu being a compositionally homogeneous rubble-pile object generated from impact fragments of an undifferentiated aqueously altered parent body.

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