GIF of bombed asteroid Ryugu shows much bigger crater than expected

26 Apr 2019468 Views

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An asteroid (not Ryugu) drifting through space. Image: © Mopic/Stock.adobe.com

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The Japanese space agency has shown the world photographic evidence of a detonation on the asteroid Ryugu, and it contained a surprise.

Earlier this month, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced the successful detonation of an explosive device on the asteroid dubbed Ryugu. Now, after the initial confirmation, the agency has shown the world what exactly an explosion on a chunk of space debris looks like.

The baseball-sized explosive released by the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft managed to knock a considerable hole in the asteroid, potentially unlocking many secrets that could lead to further knowledge on the origin of life.

JAXA said that it wants to examine the crater in greater detail in the months and years ahead, and confirmed that the blast affected an area about 20 metres in diameter. It added that this size was actually greater than anticipated, to the scientists’ delight.

“We did not expect such a big alternation so a lively debate has been initiated in the project!” it said.

The images of the aftermath – combined into a GIF of before and after shots – were taken during Hayabusa’s 2 mission objective to get close to the detonation site to gather the debris. Prior to this, it spent two weeks out of harm’s way behind the asteroid in order to prevent it from being damaged.

Also planned in the near future is the release of footage of the explosion itself but, for the sake of scientific endeavour, the JAXA team can call this a successful mission so far. Now, it will return to its home position around Ryugu at an altitude of around 20km.

Yesterday (25 April) the agency also released a number of images showing Hayabusa 2’s journey towards the asteroid, showing it increasing in size from a distance of more than 7km away, to as close as 2.6km. The eventual goal is to return the samples collected by Hayabusa 2 back to Earth in December 2020.

Last September, Hayabusa 2 safely landed two rovers on the surface of Ryugu and subsequently released some stunning video footage from its surface. Comprising 15 frames, the footage was captured on 23 September 2018, revealing what it might be like to stand on the surface of an asteroid.

Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com