Japan's Hayabusa2 probe finds water on Ryugu asteroid

Japan's Hayabusa2 probe finds water on Ryugu asteroid

Some scientists echoed Sugita's initial reaction to the discovery of the asteroid's lack of water, which he surmised by saying, "what felt limiting is now enlightening". It is a primitive, C-type asteroid - meaning its composition includes water and organics - and is part of the Apollo group of asteroids, regarded as potentially hazardous due to their close proximity to Earth.

They also found minerals containing hydroxyl groups, which can indicate the presence of water: however, they said further research was required to provide confirmation.

Later, the team redid its analysis after adjusting for measuring errors.

After its arrival at Ryugu in June a year ago, Hayabusa2 surveyed 69,000 locations on the asteroid, covering 90 percent of its surface, by using a near-infrared spectrometer capable of detecting hydrated minerals.

"The decision to choose Ryugu as the destination, based on the prediction that there is some water, was not wrong", said Kohei Kitazato, an associate professor at the University of Aizu in Fukushima Prefecture.

In addition, the team suggested the asteroid's spinning top shape "was formed from a past rapid rotation", and noted that it was surprisingly dark, which could partly be due to exposure of the rocks to the space environment.

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Scientists from the Japanese Space Agency (Jaxa) mission and from Nasa's Osiris-Rex spacecraft, which is exploring a different asteroid called Bennu, have been presenting their latest findings at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in The Woodlands, Texas.

He said Ryugu's parent body was roughly 4.6 billion years old - dating from the very earliest days of our Solar System.

The JAXA team says Ryugu may have been created when fragments from a celestial collision reaggregated.

Considering its volume and mass, Ryugu is rocks and stones aggregated together, like the asteroid Itokawa, which the first Hayabusa probe explored in a mission ended in 2010, according to the team.

A trio of papers in this issue presents the initial results from the Japanese Hayabusa2 mission to the near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid Ryugu.

An asteroid described as a "pile of rubble" is rich in hydrated minerals that could help solve the mystery of how Earth got its water, scientists said Tuesday.

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