Credit: JAXA/Hayabusa2

As Japan’s Hayabusa2 closes in on asteroid Ryugu, project officials are taking hard looks at photos of the object.

In a recent report by Seiji Sugita, the Optical Navigation Camera Principal Investigator: “As we approached Ryugu and were able to distinguish individual features in the asteroid’s topology, it became clear that Ryugu has a land of rich terrain. Numerous clusters of rock roll on the surface.”

Large rocky mass

Among these, project scientists explain, is a large rocky mass roughly 500 feet (150 meters) across stands out on the upper part of Ryugu due to its brighter color (higher reflectivity).

The belt-shaped ring of peaks that surround the equator are also slightly brighter than their surroundings.

“This color difference may reflect a difference in material composition and the size of the particles that form the rock. We can also see many sunken regions that look like craters. These depressions may have been made in collisions with other celestial bodies. A structure that looks like a grove is also visible,” Sugita adds.

Credit: JAXA

Complex history

The existence of such varied topographies is an indication that Ryugu has undergone a complex evolutionary history.

It is generally believed that small asteroids that are less than 1km, such as Ryugu, were created fairly recently in the Solar System’s history (within several hundred million years) during the fragmentation of a larger parent body.

Credit: JAXA/Hayabusa2



“Ryugu’s terrain will tells us about the division from the parent body and the asteroid’s subsequent evolution,” Hayabusa2’s Sugita explains.

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