Earlier this month we talked about the JAXA Hayabusa2 spacecraft and that it had hurled its Small Carry-on Impactor at the asteroid and that the impact had created the desired crater. JAXA has tweeted an image of the surface of Ryugu before and after the impactor smashed into its surface. With the successful creation of the crater and resulting loose debris now lying about, Hayabusa2 will now collect some of those samples.
JAXA noted via Twitter that the exact size and shape of the crater made by the impactor would be examined in detail in the future. The agency knows that for now an area of terrain on Ryugu about 20m wide has changed. The agency wrote that it didn’t expect such a big alteration. The impactor is a conical structure that was filled with explosives that tossed a 4.4-pound copper lump into the surface of the asteroid at a velocity of 1.2 miles per second.
[CRA2] Crater formation where the Small Carry-on Impactor collided with Ryugu has been confirmed! These images compare the surface before and after the SCI collision. pic.twitter.com/BZPYlHhSjs
— HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa) April 25, 2019
This isn’t the first time that Hayabusa2 has flung something at the surface of Ryugu to break up samples it could collect. In February, a much smaller projectile was fired into the surface of the asteroid. After the impact, the Hayabusa2 sampling arm picked up the debris for study.
The scientists said at the time that they were surprised that the surface of Ryugu was chunky gravel, they had expected a powdery surface. The team also found that the surface conditions could mean the sample arm grabbed more material than previously expected.
The debris collected in that first impact and collection attempt and from the new crater that Hayabusa2 has made will return to Earth for study. The spacecraft is expected to return to Earth in late 2020.