JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) announced today that they have collected more soil and gas samples than originally anticipated. The Hayabusa2 spacecraft used a pan-shaped capsule, measuring roughly 40-centimters in diameter, to collect these samples and later drop them off in the Australian desert on December 6th. Researchers are hoping samples from the asteroid’s subsurface can provide information from billions of years ago that are unaffected by space radiation as well as other environmental factors. Read more for a video and additional pictures.
How were the researchers able to confirm that the gas came from Asteroid Ryugu? Their analysis confirmed that it was different from the atmospheric composition on Earth. They conducted these analysis twice – one in Australia on December 7 and another between December 10 to 11 at the Extraterrestrial Sample Curation Center on the JAXA Sagamihara Campus – to ensure accuracy. The black sand grains also confirm there is more asteroid material in the capsule.
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When we actually opened it, I was speechless. It was more than we expected and there was so much that I was truly impressed. “It wasn’t fine particles like powder, but there were plenty of samples that measured several millimeters across,” said JAXA scientist Hirotaka Sawada.