Earlier this month, the spacecraft Hayabusa2 used an explosive device to create an artificial crater on the Ryugu asteroid, but the probe could not hold on to confirm this job for fear of being damaged by debris become. The Japanese Space Agency has now confirmed the artificial crater – but that's not exactly what they expected.
Earlier today, the Hayabusa2 probe flew its optical navigation camera (ONC-T) at an altitude of 1,700 meters above the Ryugu asteroid to confirm the presence of a surprisingly large artificial crater on the surface. Given the rocky composition of the area, the JAXA scientists expected something smaller, so the exercise will tell us something new about this asteroid and its genesis.
On April 5, 2019, Hayabusa2 used an explosive device to blow up a crater on the surface of Ryugu. Pictures taken by the probe showed that the explosive was about the size of a baseball and slowly descended to the surface. JAXA, fearing that the probe might be damaged by the subsequent debris, hid the probe about two weeks behind the asteroid, as the dust slowly settled in the low-gravity environment. However, with Hayabusa2 JAXA was unable to determine if an artificial crater is present or its size.
To prove that Hayabusa2 did the job, JAXA had the probe fly over the terrain from April 23rd to 25th. The images collected by the probe allowed the space agency to finally confirm the hole. It was "stated that the collision device produced a crater," JAXA stated in a press release. Now that the crater has been confirmed, Hayabusa2 is now returning to its starting position, about 20 kilometers above the surface.
"Creating an artificial crater with an impactor and then observing it in detail is a first attempt in the world," said Hayabusa2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda, who spoke with reporters today, AFP reports. "This is a great achievement."
NASA's Deep Impact blew up an artificial crater on comet Temple 1 on July 4, 2005. The difference in this case is that Hayabusa2 is now trying to extract material from this new crater while Deep Impact was only able to make observations.
Hayabusa2's explosive should have drawn material from deeper inside the asteroid, providing new insights into the formation of asteroids and other celestial objects in the solar system. At the beginning of the mission, the probe collected material from the surface of the surface of the asteroid. It is expected that by the end of 2020 the probe will return to Earth with its samples – both surface and subsoil.
Entering the mission and evaluating the mission As a target area on the surface, the JAXA scientists were expecting an artificial crater between 2 and 3 meters high. Unexpectedly, however, the new crater appears to have a diameter of about 10 meters, with the total area affected being about 20 meters (66 feet) wide. As indicated in the AFP report, a loose, sandy surface was expected to produce a crater of this larger size, but the target area was rocky and littered with boulders.
"The exact size and shape of the formed artificial crater is studied in detail, but it can be seen that the topography of the area changes by 20 [meters] in width," JAXA stated in a tweet . . "It was not expected that such a big change would happen. Therefore, there was a lively debate in the project. It looks like we can expect new advances in planetary science.
Masahiko Arakawa, a professor at Kobe University working on the project, said, "The surface is filled with boulders, but we have created such a large crater," AFP reported. "This could mean that there is a scientific mechanism we do not know or something special about Ryugu's materials."
JAXA will continue to study the photos collected by Hayabsua2 in recent days to learn more about the new crater and to refine its estimates. The space agency will then instruct the spacecraft to collect material from the crater, which will undoubtedly be a very delicate and precise operation, which may have been simplified given the unexpectedly large size of the well.