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Japanese probe reported more asteroid samples than expected

The Hayabusa-2 probe returned to Earth on December 6 with samples from the asteroid Ruygu in its luggage. Japanese researchers have just confirmed the "alien" contents of the capsule, noting in passing that the probe also collected more material than expected.

A few years ago, JAXA, the Japanese space agency, set itself a big goal:to collect and bring back to Earth asteroid samples. With this in mind, the agency has set its sights on an object named Ryugu, a rock 900 meters in diameter found about 350 million kilometers of our planet. Then she developed a probe, named Hayabusa2.

Launched in 2014, it finally joined the object in 2018, before landing on it twice the following year. During these maneuvers, samples were successfully collected, both on the surface but also a few centimeters deep. In November 2019, the Hayabusa2 probe then began its journey back to Earth. She finally jettisoned her sample capsule on December 6 in southern Australia.

Dust, stones and gas

A few hours ago, JAXA shared several photos of these samples with us, confirming their "alien" nature. You will then discover dust and small "pebbles" as big as coffee beans (header photo).

According to the Japanese agency, the probe also managed to "catch" some gas present on the surface of the asteroid, which has never been done before. Speaking to reporters, Hayabusa2 Project Director Yuichi Tsuda described the mission as "a major scientific milestone .

In addition, the probe also collected more material than expected , which is another very good news. JAXA researchers will thus be able to broaden the scope of their work and possibly share these elements with outside experts, including those at NASA.

Note that the material analyzed here is that collected from the surface of Ryugu. The second storage chamber containing the underground materials, which were gathered during the probe's second "touch", has not yet been opened. However, JAXA plans to do so next week.

These nearly "blank" samples from 4 .6 billion years could provide clues to the formation of the solar system . They will also help determine the role played by these carbon-rich objects in the appearance of life on Earth.

As ​​for Hayabusa2, it is continuing its journey today and is now aiming for a new target:asteroid 1998 KY26, a rapidly rotating rock about thirty meters in diameter positioning itself between the orbits of Mars and Earth. The space probe should be able to reach it in 2031.