Asteroid samples brought back by Hayabusa2 on display at Tokyo museum

A black particle collected during the space probe Hayabusa2’s first landing on the asteroid Ryugu, which is now on public display at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, is seen in this photo provided by the museum.

TOKYO — The samples from the asteroid Ryugu brought back to Earth by the Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 went on public display on Dec. 4 for the first time at a Tokyo museum.

Two pitch black particles, each measuring about 2 millimeters, are now on display at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, or Miraikan, in the capital’s Koto Ward. Masaki Fujimoto, deputy director of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, told reporters during a briefing session held for the media on Dec. 3, “They look like ordinary pebbles, but are actually filled with information related to the origin of Earth’s water and life. I want visitors to look at them with that in mind.”

The space probe Hayabusa2 came back to Earth in December 2020 carrying a capsule containing 5.4 grams of rock and sand samples from the asteroid Ryugu. In the capsule were samples the probe collected during the landing on the asteroid in February and July 2019. It’s believed that Hayabusa2 was able to collect samples of Ryugu’s surface during the first landing, and during the second time it took samples from the subsurface material when the probe created an artificial crater with a collider.

Ryugu orbits mainly between Earth and Mars, and is classified as an asteroid with carbon and water. Scientists believe that it is highly likely that the asteroid is carrying materials from which Earth’s life and water came about, and are analyzing the samples brought back from the asteroid.

The particles on display are from the samples collected respectively during the first landing and second landing. The capsule in which Ryugu’s rock samples came back is also being shown at the exhibit, which runs until Dec. 13. For more information, contact Miraikan at 03-3570-9151 (in Japanese).

(Japanese original by Etsuko Nagayama, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)