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Scientists thrilled with asteroid treasure returned by Japanese spacecraft

16 Dec 2020, 20:20 UTC
Scientists thrilled with asteroid treasure returned by Japanese spacecraft
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Japanese scientists found black material from asteroid Ryugu inside one of the Hayabusa 2 mission’s collection chambers (colour corrected by Astronomy Now). Credit: JAXA/Astronomy Now
Japanese space agency officials said Tuesday they found a “large number” of pitch black rock and dust particles after opening a capsule returned to Earth earlier this month by the Hayabusa 2 mission, giving eager scientists their first significant specimens ever brought back from an asteroid.
Scientists working inside a super-clean laboratory in Sagamihara, Japan, have opened the first of three sample collection chambers inside Hayabusa 2’s return capsule, beginning the process of analysing the material in search of fresh insights into the history of the Solar System.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which manages the Hayabusa 2 mission, released a photo inside the nearly 48-millimetre (2-inch-wide) container, known as chamber A. The photo shows a small pile of black pebbles from Ryugu, a 900-metre (half-mile-wide) asteroid rich in carbon, a crucial building block for life.
“This is thought to be the sample from the first touchdown on Ryugu,” JAXA tweeted. “The sample return is a great success!”
Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft appears to have returned more asteroid specimens than expected, scientists said, although a ...

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