JAXA displays the largest asteroid samples ever collected

JAXA displays the largest asteroid samples ever collected

The capsule landed in the Australian outback on December 6th, and JAXA scientists quickly transported it to a pop-up laboratory in Australia called the Rapid Research Facility, or QLF. Scientists soon confirmed that they had captured the gases, but the probe required more tests to ensure it was of extraterrestrial origin. The team confirmed yesterday that the gas sample is identical to the original analysis, confirming the first gases captured from deep space.

Meanwhile, JAXA showed material captured from the asteroid’s surface in the form of dark debris and small rocks. It is found in Sample Room A, so JAXA believes it was collected and stored during the first landing. The second drop should have released samples that will be stored in Room C. Earlier, the agency confirmed the presence of grains of “black sand” believed to be from Ryugu, which hung just outside the main chambers.

After all rooms are opened to weigh and confirm the materials, JAXA will begin to evaluate samples with microscopes and analyze the infrared spectra. We should learn more about the composition by early 2021, and by the end of 2021, JAXA will begin sharing samples with NASA and other agencies.

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So far, JAXA estimates it has accumulated 1 to 2 grams of the substance, or 10 to 20 times more than the 100 milligrams it was hoping to obtain. If accurate, it would be the largest asteroid sample collected directly from space, by far. The only other sample from an extraterrestrial asteroid also came from Japan via the Hayabusa1 mission, which collected just 1 milligram of material.

This also means that unlike pieces of asteroids that fall to Earth, Hayabusa2’s samples are free from terrestrial pollution. Scientists hope the materials, which are mainly artifacts from our ancient solar system, will provide clues to how Earth – and even life – was formed in the beginning.

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