Subaru Telescope Takes Montage of Hayabusa’s Return to Earth


The world watched and waited for the Hayabusa spacecraft to make its return to Earth on June 13, 2010 and the people of Japan — who built and launched the little spacecraft that could (and did!) — were especially hopeful in watching and waiting. Japan’s Subaru Telescope (although located on Mauna Kea in Hawaii) turned its expectant eyes towards Hayabusa and captured the spacecraft’s flight between the Moon and Earth in 11 different images.

A note from the Subaru Telescope team:

During the busy time preparing the observations, Doctor Masafumi Yagi and his team managed to maneuver the telescope just in time to catch Hayabusa before it disappeared down south in the twilight sky. At that time, Hayabusa was a little less than half way between Moon and Earth. Five seconds exposures, each spaced by 35 – 50 seconds in the V filter with Suprime Cam, it showed up in clear trace at the position expected to be. Brightness is estimated to be only 21 magnitudes. At this level, one can see a background galaxy clearly.

We are waiting to hear more from the project team at ISAS/JAXA. In the meantime, congratulations to all who are involved in this unprecedented endeavor.

A GIF animation of the 11 images is available here — but be warned, the file is huge. You can click on the top image for a full-sized huge-ified image, too.

And here are some images of the recovery teams who picked up the sample return canister in the Woomera Prohibited Area in Australia. The canister will be taken to Japan and opened in a few weeks, or perhaps months, after rigorous testing. Only then will we find out if any asteroid samples made it in the canister for the ride back to Earth.

Recovery team makes sure all is safe with the sample return canister. Credit: JAXA
The recovery team handles the heat sheild for the Hayabusa sample return capsule. Credit: JAXA, Hayabusa Twitter feed.
JAXA's Hayabusa space capsule is transported inside a box to a clean room inside the Instrumentation Building at the Woomera Test Range, South Australia. Credit: Australian Science Media Centre

You can see more images of the canister retrieval at the Hayabusa Twitpic page and the Australian Science Media Centre’s Flickr page

Source: Subaru

6 Replies to “Subaru Telescope Takes Montage of Hayabusa’s Return to Earth”

  1. The Human quest for knowledge and its ingenuity in obtaining it never ceases to amaze me. I am very sorrowful for all the “couch potatoes” whose only goal is to play X-box or PlayStation “X”, whatever “X” may be. Congrats to the Japanese on a fantastic feat!, Now, America, let’s get some VISION of our OWN~!

  2. @Jon

    Maybe something to do with the way the capsule was released from the main craft. Explosive bolts and whatnot. Other than that maybe JAXA knows something about tiny aliens with rocket launchers hanging out on small asteroids?

  3. What I find amazing about this is the fact that the telescope could image a magnitude 21 object in only 5 seconds and clearly show a background galaxy that is only 1-2 magnitudes brighter.

    Try that with even strongly hypered film.

    Ok, I just dated myself there but it demonstrates how far we have come along with imaging in the last 2 decades.

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