An artificial impact on the asteroid (162173) Ryugu formed a crater in the gravity-dominated regime

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Science  03 Apr 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6486, pp. 67-71
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz1701

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Blowing a crater in asteroid Ryugu

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft was designed to collect samples from the nearby asteroid (162173) Ryugu and return them to Earth for laboratory analysis. Arakawa et al. describe how the spacecraft's Small Carry-on Impactor was fired into the asteroid's surface, producing an artificial impact crater. Analysis of the resulting plume of ejecta, recorded by a remote camera, sets an upper limit on the strength of the rubble-pile surface. The crater has a semicircular shape, probably due to a large boulder buried close to the impact location. The crater exposed material from Ryugu's subsurface, which has not been subjected to space weathering, that is suitable for collection by Hayabusa2.

Science, this issue p. 67


The Hayabusa2 spacecraft investigated the small asteroid Ryugu, which has a rubble-pile structure. We describe an impact experiment on Ryugu using Hayabusa2’s Small Carry-on Impactor. The impact produced an artificial crater with a diameter >10 meters, which has a semicircular shape, an elevated rim, and a central pit. Images of the impact and resulting ejecta were recorded by the Deployable CAMera 3 for >8 minutes, showing the growth of an ejecta curtain (the outer edge of the ejecta) and deposition of ejecta onto the surface. The ejecta curtain was asymmetric and heterogeneous and it never fully detached from the surface. The crater formed in the gravity-dominated regime; in other words, crater growth was limited by gravity not surface strength. We discuss implications for Ryugu’s surface age.

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