The Japanese interplanetary station Hayabusa-2 received a series of 52 photographs, thanks to which scientists first saw how the asteroid Ryugu rotates, which helped to clarify its shape.
“In this video, you can see that the asteroid is sharply angular and that it is covered with a large number of dents or craters.It is interesting that it rotates around its axis in the opposite direction compared to the Earth and other planets .This relates it to Venus and Uranus and makes a potentially unique small celestial body, “- said the scientists.
The probe “Hayabusa-2”, whose purpose is to study and take samples from the asteroid Ryugu, was launched into space in early December 2014. He will return to the ground the first 100% “pure” samples of the primary matter of the solar system.
The Japanese device reached its goal in early June and began a long procedure of inhibition and rapprochement with the asteroid. The first photos of Ryugu, received by the probe last week, helped astronomers to clarify the position of Hayabusa-2, but did not allow us to understand what shape and size the asteroid possesses.
Later, the probe’s cameras received new, sharper photos of the asteroid that showed that it looked like a pelmeni or dango balls, a national Japanese dish. The new photos that Hayabusa-2 transmitted to Earth last weekend showed that it has a more angular shape and is more like a cube than a ball.
This was not a surprise to the scientific team of the probe, who initially noted that the asteroid should be less “round” than it appears on the first detailed photographs of this celestial body. On the other hand, the unusual rotation pattern and the shape of the asteroid can greatly affect when and how the micro rover is planted and the ground is taken from its surface.
The predecessor of the device, the probe Hayabusa, was launched into space in May 2003. This is the only spacecraft that landed and took off from the surface of the cosmic body outside the Earth-Moon system. In 2005, he landed on the asteroid Itokawa, but because of malfunctions, the taking of soil samples was not in accordance with the plan.
His heir, as JAXA experts expect, will return to Earth in late 2020, if all the procedures for the removal of soil are going according to plan, and the capsule with samples of matter will not be damaged when landing on the surface of our planet.
Ground picking, in spite of the fact that Hayabusa-2 has already reached Ryugu, will not happen soon. First, the probe must determine its exact orbit and correct it, if necessary, and then comprehensively study the structure of the earth’s interior and the relief of the asteroid.
Only after this, the interplanetary station will approach the surface of Ryugu and drop a kind of “burst” on it, which will expose and throw out the untouched material from the bowels of the asteroid. “Hayabusa-2” will collect this dust and shingle, levitating in a vacuum, during the second span above this point. Later the probe will land a miniature rover on the surface of the asteroid, which will work on its surface for about a day and collect data on its structure.