May 26, 2022


Discover your best

We Finally Have The First-Ever Analysis of Stardust Retrieved From The Ryugu Asteroid

It is really been around a year given that the Hayabusa2 probe delivered its precious cargo of dust from an alien house rock, and we’re lastly obtaining a much more comprehensive glimpse of what tends to make up asteroid Ryugu.


In two papers released right now, intercontinental teams of scientists have revealed that, in accordance with analyses carried out by the probe even though at the asteroid, Ryugu is incredibly dark, incredibly porous, and some of the most primitive Solar Process material we’ve at any time had access to here on Earth.

Though not sudden, the benefits are very interesting. Because the asteroid has remained more or significantly less unchanged considering the fact that the formation of the Solar Technique 4.5 billion a long time in the past, the sample is a single of our very best resources yet for knowledge the composition of the dust from which the interior Photo voltaic System objects coalesced.

“The Hayabusa2 returned samples … appear to be between the most primordial resources readily available in our laboratories,” wrote a single of the teams in their paper. “The samples represent a uniquely valuable collection, which could contribute to revisiting the paradigms of Photo voltaic Method origin and evolution.”

Asteroid Ryugu, previously acknowledged as 1999 JU3, is only the 2nd asteroid from which a sample return mission has been performed. The very first was Itokawa, whose sample return system unsuccessful, resulting in only a minute volume of dust lastly achieving Earth in 2010.


Ryugu is about a kilometer (.62 miles) throughout, with a ridge close to its equator it travels an elliptical orbit that carries it just within Earth’s orbital path around the Sun, then out nearly as considerably as Mars’s orbit. The mission to get to the asteroid, touch down on it twice, then return any dust retrieved to Earth took a deeply spectacular stage of ability and scheduling.

But it labored, and 5.4 grams of precious asteroid dust were returned and duly analyzed, whilst Hayabusa2 sailed off for a series of rendezvous with other asteroids above the coming decades.

Ryugu samples returned by the Hayabusa2 probe. (Yada et. al., Nat. Astron., 2021)

Based mostly on remote sensing and on-asteroid measurements, we already know Ryugu is what we simply call a C-sort asteroid, the most common style of asteroid in the Solar Process. These rocks are wealthy in carbon, which helps make them pretty dark they also have tons of unstable things. 

In the initially paper, led by astronomer Toru Yada of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), an examination of a Ryugu sample reveals that the asteroid is very darkish. Ordinarily, C-type asteroids have an albedo (that is the measure of how a great deal photo voltaic radiation a system reflects) of .03 to .09. Asphalt has an albedo of .04. Ryugu’s albedo is .02. That usually means it reflects just 2 % of the photo voltaic radiation that hits it.


The asteroid is also, the researchers determined, extremely porous. In accordance to their measurements, Ryugu has a porosity of 46 percent. That’s far more porous than any carbonaceous meteorite we’ve ever experienced the option to research, even though we have noticed far more porous asteroids. This is regular with the asteroid’s porosity as measured by remote thermal imaging, and measurements done on the asteroid itself.

In the next paper, a workforce led by astronomer Cédric Pilorget of the Université Paris-Saclay in France analyzed the composition of the dust. They detected that the asteroid seems to consist of an particularly dark matrix, probably dominated by phyllosilicates, or clay-like minerals, though there was a absence of a apparent hydration signature.

In this matrix, they determined inclusions of other minerals, this kind of as carbonates, iron, and unstable compounds.

Both equally of these papers concur that, in porosity and composition, Ryugu seems most related to a style of meteorite classed as “CI chondrites”. That implies the meteorite is carbonaceous, and identical to the Ivuna meteorite. These meteorites have, in comparison to other meteorites, a composition incredibly equivalent to that of the solar photosphere, suggesting they are the most primitive of all known place rocks.

Far more in-depth analyses will no doubt be on the way to consider to discover a lot more – not just about Ryugu, but what our Photo voltaic Method was like as it was forming from the Sun’s leftover dust.

“Our first observations in the laboratory for the full established of returned samples show that Hayabusa2 retrieved a representative and unprocessed (albeit marginally fragmented) sample from Ryugu,” Yada’s crew wrote in their paper.

“Our data support and prolong distant-sensing observations that advised that Ryugu is dominated by hydrous carbonaceous chondrite-like components, equivalent to CI chondrites, but with a darker, a lot more porous and extra fragile mother nature. This inference ought to be even more corroborated by in-depth investigations hereafter by condition-of-the-artwork analytical procedures with larger resolution and precision.”

The two papers have been posted in Character Astronomy. They can be identified right here and in this article.