Japan's Hayabusa2 studying asteroid Ryugu (Photo Credit: Twitter/@haya2e_jaxa)
In last three months, Earth had close encounters with many giant asteroids. In fact, a pair of supergiant asteroids (space rocks) identified as 2000 QW7 and 2010 CO1 zip past the Earth last week. During their closest approach, asteroid 2000 QW7 and 2010 CO1 were just 0.035428 astronomical units(AU). We were fortunate that the two space rocks failed to collide with the Earth. Well, the researchers, scientists and astronomers of different space agencies across the world are trying to unearth the mystery of the asteroids i.e. origination, material space rock is made of etc. The Hayabusa2 mission of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has been studying an asteroid dubbed as Ryugu for more than a year. Recently, Japan’s Hayabusa2 probe has practiced yet another important task before heading home. Yes, you read it right.
Hayabusa 2 arrived at Ryugu on 27 June 2018 and since then it has released three small rovers to the surface and performed two touchdowns to collect surface material. For the past one year, the Hayabusa2 mission captured incredible images and snagged samples of the rock. But Hayabusa2 has one more rover on board, dubbed MINERVA-II2.
Before MINERVA-II2, the main rover was deployed, the team of scientists belong to JAXA wanted to put the vehicle through its paces one more time. According to a report of space.com, the rehearsal which took place on September 16. During the rehearsal, the JAXA sent two target markers toward the asteroid.
September 16 at 15:52 JST: the altitude of the spacecraft is 3.5km. The first image was captured by the telephoto ONC-T at 15:13 JST. The Urashima Crater fills the whole photo, whose width is about 390m. The second image was taken by the wide-angle ONC-W1 camera at 15:43 JST. pic.twitter.com/pf0ZYf4EKh— HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa) September 16, 2019
September 16 at 10:00 JST: the altitude of the spacecraft is 3.7km. We have live distribution of the navigation images from the telephoto camera, ONC-T, on our website! This image was received on September 16 at 9:33 JST. https://t.co/CgileY0evT pic.twitter.com/eEXwnanBsB— HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa) September 16, 2019
We are separating two target markers and tracking their descent to the surface of Ryugu. This “Target Marker Separation Operation” will continue until 09/17, followed by the “Target Marker Observation Operation” until 09/23.https://t.co/2gtKDTPtD3 pic.twitter.com/liBsdpShZy— HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa) September 16, 2019
According to JAXA, each target marker is a reflective ball that's about 4 inches across and filled with smaller balls — like a high-tech beanbag. By tracking their descent, the scientists of JAXA can deduce the precise gravitational field that the asteroid generates, which reveals its internal structure.
Soon after the deployment of its final onboard lander in October, the spacecraft will return to Earth. Due to arrive in December 2020, Hayabusa 2 will release a capsule containing the asteroid samples it has collected. This capsule will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and use parachutes to land in Australia.