Published: Sun, April 28, 2019
Science | By

Japan creates first artificial crater on asteroid after bombing the surface

Japan creates first artificial crater on asteroid after bombing the surface

"This is a big success".

Masahiko Arakawa, a Kobe University professor involved in the project, said it was "the best day of his life".

In April, the Hayabusa2 blasted Ryugu with a copper cannonball filled with explosives for the Small Carry-on Impactor experiment, which was supposed to expose some of the underlying structure of the asteroid for future observation. As noted in the AFP report, a loose, sandy surface was expected to produce a crater of that larger size, but the target region was rocky and littered with boulders. Now, after the initial confirmation, the agency has shown the world what exactly an explosion on a chunk of space debris looks like.

The scientists said at the time that they were surprised that the surface of Ryugu was chunky gravel, they had expected a powdery surface. However, the impact of the solar wind has eroded Asteroid Ryugu's surface, making it inevitable to dig deep to gather such materials. It emphasised that this is the first time such a crater has been created on the surface of the asteroid.

Scientists believe the interior of the asteroid is largely protected from space weathering, and retains conditions that existed when it was created about 4.6 billion years ago as the solar system was being formed.

Photos of Ryugu - which means "Dragon Palace" in Japanese and refers to a castle at the bottom of the ocean in an ancient Japanese tale - show the asteroid has a rough surface covered with boulders.

The asteroid Ryugu is located between Earth and Mars.

Because of the debris that would have been thrown up in this event, Hayabusa-2 manoeuvred itself before the detonation to the far side of 800m-wide Ryugu - out of harm's way and out of sight. "We were able to create a crater in the area we had aimed for".

The objective of making the crater on Ryugu was to lift "fresh" material from under the asteroid's surface to shed light on the early stages of the solar system.

The team will continue to analyze the results and determine whether there is an appropriate area on Ryugu's surface they can land the space probe on in order to collect a sample of rocks from the asteroid. The eventual goal is to return the samples collected by Hayabusa 2 back to Earth in December 2020.

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