Asteroid Ryugu Is Surprisingly Dry, Japanese Spacecraft Finds

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft reveals new clues about the early solar system.

A Japanese spacecraft studying  the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu beamed home new data revealing that the space rock has less water than scientists expected.

The spacecraft, Hayabusa2, arrived at Ryugu on June 27, 2018. Since then, the probe has surveyed the asteroid’s surface and landed multiple robotic probes on its rocky terrain.

Last month, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) completed a complicated touchdown maneuver to collect samples from Ryugu’s surface, which will be brought back to Earth in a return capsule in late 2020.

After almost a year surveying Ryugu, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft has already collected invaluable data that may help scientists better understand the early solar system.

“Just a few months after we received the first data, we have already made some tantalizing discoveries,” Seiji Sugita, lead author of one of the studies and a researcher from the University of Tokyo, said in a statement. “The primary one being the amount of water, or lack of it, Ryugu seems to possess. It’s far drier than we expected, and given Ryugu is quite young (by asteroid standards), at around 100 million years old, this suggests its parent body was much largely devoid of water, too.”

The new data collected from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft is the focus of three studies, which were published today (March 19) in the journal Science.

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