Hayabusa2 has effectively blasted a crater into the asteroid Ryugu. On April 25 Japan time, the spacecraft flew over the spot where it had dropped a shot three weeks earlier and took photos of the impact (SN Online: 4/5/19).
“We have affirmed that an artificial crater was created,” JAXA, Japan’s space agency, reports based on a comparison of when images. “The size and profundity of the crater are presently under analysis.”
The images demonstrated an area about 20 meters wide had changed after the impact, which was greater than the team anticipated. “An exuberant debate has been initiated in the venture,” JAXA tweeted.
Confirmation took a long time because, after dropping a two-kilogram copper cylinder, the spacecraft hung out behind the asteroid to avoid getting hit by any flying flotsam and jetsam.
The Hayabusa2 team plans to go through the spacecraft to pick a spot of asteroid residue from inside the crater and return it to Earth in 2020. The spacecraft gathered some residue from Ryugu’s surface in February (SN Online: 2/22/19). Comparing that residue to samples from inside the crater can help reveal details of Ryugu’s history, for example, regardless of whether it was ever wet and whether it safeguarded organic materials (SN: 1/19/19, p. 20).