Probe Hayabusa2 delivers images of the surface of an asteroid for the first time

Tokyo (Japan) – Less than a week before the landing unit MASCOT of the Japanese probe “Hayabusa2” is to land on the asteroid Ryugo, the two twin rovers and hopper Minerva-II1A and B have for the first time ever taken images directly from the surface of a comet.

Arriving at its destination on 27 June, the probe “Hayabusa2” (Hayabusa = Japanese: peregrine falcon) first placed itself on a 20-kilometer-high orbit around the asteroid, before approaching the surface in mid-July up to 6 kilometers and to deliver the first fascinating shots from here.

View of the surface of Ryugo from a distance of 6 kilometers, taken on July 25, 2018. 
Copyright: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST.

Later, at the beginning of August 2018, the probe then took pictures from just one kilometer away:

Copyright: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST.

On September 21, the two twin rovers and hopper “Minerva II1A and B” then separated and successfully landed in the equatorial region of the 950-meter asteroid. The approximately 18 centimeters diameter instruments are equipped with four or three cameras, which also 3D stereo images can be recorded.

The hoppers take advantage of the asteroid’s low attraction to move instead of rolling, hopping over the Ryugu surface. In this way, the images not only show the stony and gravel surface of the asteroid but also have their own dynamics, as they show not only the sun moving across the sky but also here and there slight motion blur during the jumps.

Color image of Minerva-II1B landing on Ryugu surface (ur) on September 21, 2018, 13:07 JST. The colored surface is a reflection of the sunlight. 
Copyright: JAXA

Landed and Jumped: Color Picture of Minerva-II1A from September 22, 2018, 11:44 am JST. Once again, the sun is reflected here as a white reflection in the photograph 
Copyright: JAXA

Color image of Minerva-II1B from September 23, 2018, 09:46 JST. 
Copyright: JAXA

An interesting surface detail. Recorded by Minerva-II1A on September 23, 2018, 9:43 pm JST. 
Copyright: JAXA

The so far high-resolution image of the Ryugo surface shows its details from a distance of just 64 meters. The lower picture shows the position of the image section (yellow frame) on the asteroid surface together with the shadow of the Hayabusa2 probe:

Copyright: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University, AIST).

Copyright: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University, AIST).

Copyright: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University, AIST).

For the 3rd of October 2018, the landing of the mobile landing unit MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) at about 315 degrees east and 30 degrees south in the southern hemisphere of the asteroid is now planned. A total of four instruments should then perform measurements on the surface. On board are the infrared spectrometer MicrOmega, magnetometer MAG, the camera MASCAM, and the radiometer MARA.

Also, MASCOT should move independently by means of a special mechanism over the asteroid surface and can jump thereby 10 to 70 meters far. Because of the limited life of the lithium-ion battery, the mission duration of the lander is estimated at about 16 hours.

While MASCOT will remain on Ryugu after the completion of the mission, Hayabusa2 is expected to return to Earth in late 2020, with soil samples to be ejected from the asteroid surface with projectile-forming charges and a funnel.




  • Science and Technology

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