Sunday, August 5, 2018

Hayabusa 2 Finds No Signs of Water on Asteroid Ryugu

Boulders dot the surface of Ryugu in an image captured by Hayabusa 2 from about 6 kilometers above the asteroid.(Provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the University of Tokyo)

The Hayabusa 2 space probe has so far detected no signs of water on the asteroid Ryugu, but experts are not giving up hope for the discovery of the life-giving substance. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said Aug. 2 that data collected from the space probe showed no water on the boulders scattered on the surface of Ryugu.

Ryugu is a C-type asteroid, which is rich in carbon. Many C-type asteroids are known to contain moisture in their surface boulders, and experts hoped that Ryugu would be one of them.

The existence of water would increase the chances of confirming life-forms on the asteroid.

Ryugu is so far from Earth—300 million kilometers--that sufficient observational data of its surface had previously been out of reach.

Since late June, when Hayabusa 2 reached the area around Ryugu, the project team has obtained data from 54,000 spots on the asteroid’s surface, according to Kohei Kitazato, a JAXA project member and associate professor of Earth and planetary science astronomy at the University of Aizu.

But the data provided no evidence of water.

It is unknown whether the asteroid has always been devoid of water, or whether water did exist but evaporated due to such factors as solar light, Kitazato said.

“There is a possibility that water might be discovered after an artificial crater is created on its surface next spring,” Kitazato said.

Hayabusa 2 is scheduled to define a landing point on Ryugu by the end of this month and touch down on the asteroid in autumn for the first time.

The probe will fire a metal fragment to create a hole in the surface and collect samples from inside the asteroid, according to the plan.


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