NASA receives first Sample of Asteroid Ryugu

American Space Agency, NASA, has received its first sample of asteroid Ryugu that returned to Earth in December 2020 by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft.

Highlights

  • Samples from asteroid Ryugu is one of the first samples to leave Japan for preliminary investigation.
  • Mike Zolensky was one of the first scientists to examine these sample so as to determine its basic nature.
  • Sample analyses were performed in Scanning Electron Microscopy Lab in Structural Engineering Division of Johnson.

What us asteroid Ryugu?

Asteroid Ryugu is also called as 162173 Ryugu.  It is provisionally designated as 1999 JU3. It is a near-Earth object and a potentially hazardous asteroid belonging to Apollo group. It is approximately 1 kilometre in diameter. It is a dark object of rare spectral type Cb. It has qualities of C-type asteroid as well as B-type asteroid. Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 arrived at this asteroid in 2018. It left Ryugu for Earth in November 2019 after making measurements and taking samples. It returned sample capsule to Earth in December 2020.

Background

Ryugu was discovered in May 1999 by astronomers with Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research at Lincoln Lab’s ETS in United States. It was given provisional designation of 1999 JU3. It was officially named as “Ryugu” by Minor Planet Center in September 2015. Name refers to Ryugu-ju (Dragon Palace) which is a magical underwater palace in Japanese folktale.

About Hayabusa2

It is an asteroid sample-return mission. It is operated by Japanese state space agency, JAXA. It is the successor of Hayabusa mission. It returned asteroid samples first time in June 2010. Hayabusa2 was launched on December, 3 2014. Its mission has been extended till 2031.

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