Approximately 4.1 to 3.8 billion years ago, the planets of the inner Solar System experienced many impacts from comets and asteroids that originated in the outer Solar System. This is known as the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB) period when (according to theory) the migration of the giant planets kicked asteroids and comets out of their regular orbits, sending them hurtling towards Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. This bombardment is believed to have distributed water to the inner Solar System and maybe the building blocks of life itself.
According to new research from the University of Cambridge, comets must travel slowly – below 15 km/s (9.32 mi/s) – to deliver organic material onto other planets. Otherwise, the essential molecules would not survive the high speed and temperatures generated by atmospheric entry and impact. As the researchers found, such comets are only likely to occur in tightly bound systems where planets orbit closely to each other. Their results show that these systems would be a good place to look for evidence of life (biosignatures) beyond the Solar System.
In December 2020, JAXA’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft delivered a pristine sample of otherworldly dust and rock from asteroid Ryugu to Earth. Scientists have since had the opportunity to study the sample, and announced last week that the asteroid contains organic molecules important for life. In particular, they discovered Niacin, otherwise known as vitamin B3, and Uracil, one of the four core components of ribonucleic acid (RNA).
In 2014, the Japanese Space Agency JAXA launched the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft to visit asteroid Ryugu. It arrived at the asteroid in June 2018 and studied it from orbit for over a year. Hayabusa 2 even dispatched four rovers to the asteroid’s surface. After departing, it flew past Earth in December 2020, dropping off a sample of Ryugu.
Of all the scientific results from that impressive mission, the most interesting one might be this: Asteroid Ryugu might not be an asteroid. It might be the remnant of a comet.
After more than two years in orbit around asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is ready to come home. It’s bringing with it a pristine sample of space rocks that geologists here on Earth are eager to study up close. The sample will arrive in September 2023, but we won’t have to wait nearly that long for new data from OSIRIS-REx. Last week, the probe carried out one final flyby of Bennu, in an effort to photograph the sample collection site. The photographs are being downlinked now, and should be here by midweek.
If you’ve been following the OSIRIS-REx mission, you probably already know why scientists are keen to see these photographs, but if you haven’t, hold on to your hats – it’s a wild story.
A fireball hurtled across the sky on December 5th – the sample return capsule from the Hayabusa2 asteroid mission by JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). The capsule landed in Woomera, a remote location in the Australian Outback. Earlier this month, the capsule’s sample containers revealed fine grain topsoil from asteroid 162173 Ryugu. A second sample container has since been opened that contains chunks up to an entire centimeter in size.
Japan’s Hayabusa 2 probe zoomed past Earth on December 5th and dropped off a capsule containing bits of an asteroid, finishing a six-year round trip.
But the mission is far from over: While Hayabusa 2’s parachute-equipped sample capsule descended to the Australian Outback, its mothership set a new course for an encounter with yet another asteroid in 2031.
Imagery captured by tracking cameras — and from the International Space Station — showed the capsule streaking like a fireball across the sky as it decelerated from an initial speed of 43,000 kilometers per hour.
Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is on its way home. The asteroid-visiting, sample-return mission departed asteroid Ryugu (162173 Ryugu) on Wednesday, beginning its year-long journey back to Earth. And it’s carrying some precious cargo.
Japan’s Hayabusa 2 mission to asteroid Ryugu has reached one of its final milestones, if not its climax. The sample-return spacecraft has launched the Minerva-II2 rover at the asteroid. This is the last of four rovers that Hayabusa 2 is deploying on Ryugu.
When Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft arrived at asteroid Ryugu in June 2018, it carried four small rovers with it. Hayabusa 2 is primarily a sample-return mission, but JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) sent rovers along to explore the asteroid’s surface and learn as much as they could from their visit. There’s also no guarantee that the sample return will be successful.
They chose Ryugu because the asteroid is classified as a primitive carbonaceous asteroid. This type of asteroid is a desirable target because it represents the primordial matter that formed the bodies in our Solar System. It’s also pretty close to Earth.
The sample from Ryugu, which will make it to Earth in December 2020, is the big science prize from this mission. Analyzing it in Earth-based laboratories will tell us a lot more than spacecraft instruments can. But the rovers that landed on Ryugu’s surface have already revealed a lot about Ryugu.
A new video shows Japan’s Hayabusa 2 sample return spacecraft collecting samples from asteroid Ryugu. The spacecraft has been at Ryugu for months now, and it’s all been leading up to this. In the video, you can clearly see airborne asteroid dust and particles swirling around in the low gravity.