Scientists in Japan They said they were surprised when they saw the amount of asteroid dust contained inside a capsule launched by the Hayabusa 2 space probe.
The Japanese probe collected surface dust and original materials last year from the Ryugu asteroid, about 200 miles (300 meters) away, during two daring phases of its six-year mission.
This month, a capsule containing samples was dropped, creating a fireball upon entering Earth’s atmosphere and landing in the Australian desert before being transported to Japan.
Scientists at Japan’s space agency Jaxa removed the spikes in the capsule’s inner container on Tuesday, after they had already found a small amount of asteroid dust in the outer shell.
“When we actually opened it, I was speechless. It was more than we expected and there was a lot that really impressed me,” said Hirotaka Sawada, the Jaxa scientist. “They weren’t as fine as a powder, but there were a lot of samples that were several in diameter. Millimeters. “
Scientists hope that this material will shed light on the formation of the universe and possibly provide clues about how life began on Earth.
They haven’t yet revealed whether the substance inside is worth, or possibly more, than 0.1 gram that they said they hoped to discover.
Seiichiro Watanabe, Hayabusa Project Scientist and Professor at Nagoya University, said he is nonetheless happy. “There are so many [of samples] And it appears to contain a lot of organic matter. “So I hope we can discover many things about how organic matter evolved in Ryugu’s parent body.”
Half of the Hayabusa-2 samples will be shared between Jaxa, NASA and other international organizations. The remainder will be kept for future study as advances in analytical technology are made.
But the work of the probe is not finished yet, which will now begin an expanded mission targeting two new asteroids.