Sample collection from asteroid (162173) Ryugu by Hayabusa2: Implications for surface evolution

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Science  08 May 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6491, pp. 654-659
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz6306

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Collecting a sample of asteroid Ryugu

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft recently traveled to the nearby carbonaceous asteroid Ryugu to collect samples and return them to Earth for laboratory analysis. Morota et al. describe Hayabusa2's first sample collection, taken during a brief touchdown on Ryugu's surface. Close-up images and video taken during the sampling process allowed the authors to investigate the surface colors and morphology on a small scale. Relating these to the surface craters and stratigraphy constrains the evolution of Ryugu. The authors conclude that the asteroid experienced a prior period of strong solar heating caused by changes in its orbit. The sample is expected to arrive on Earth in December 2020.

Science, this issue p. 654


The near-Earth asteroid (162173) Ryugu is thought to be a primitive carbonaceous object that contains hydrated minerals and organic molecules. We report sample collection from Ryugu’s surface by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft on 21 February 2019. Touchdown images and global observations of surface colors are used to investigate the stratigraphy of the surface around the sample location and across Ryugu. Latitudinal color variations suggest the reddening of exposed surface material by solar heating and/or space weathering. Immediately after touchdown, Hayabusa2’s thrusters disturbed dark, fine grains that originate from the redder materials. The stratigraphic relationship between identified craters and the redder material indicates that surface reddening occurred over a short period of time. We suggest that Ryugu previously experienced an orbital excursion near the Sun.

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