TOKYO | Japanese scientists said Tuesday they were “speechless” when they discovered the quantity of particles brought to Earth by a Japanese space probe after a six-year mission.
The Hayabusa-2 probe, launched in 2014, collected particles from the asteroid Ryugu (“Dragon Palace”), located more than 300 million kilometers from Earth.
At the beginning of December, she dropped a capsule containing her precious finds towards Earth, which was recovered in the middle of the Australian desert.
Researchers from the Japanese Space Agency (Jaxa) unsealed the internal receptacle of the capsule on Tuesday, after having already found a small amount of particles outside of it the day before.
“When we opened it, I was speechless. It was more than we expected and there was so much that I was really impressed, ”said one of the scientists, Hirotaka Sawada.
“They were not just tiny particles like powder, but several specimens measuring a few millimeters,” he said.
Scientists hope analysis of this material will help shed light on the origin of life and how the universe was formed 4.6 billion years ago.
They have not yet announced whether the amount collected was equal to, or perhaps even more than, the hundred milligrams they previously said they expected.
Seiichiro Watanabe, a member of the Hayabusa project and professor at Nagoya University, said he was delighted anyway.
“There are a lot (of samples) and it seems that they contain enough organic matter,” he said, saying he hoped “to learn a lot about the way in which the matter developed on the star. came from Ryugu ”.
Half of the material collected will be shared between Jaxa, the US space agency Nasa and international organizations, and the rest will be kept for future studies, as analytical technology advances.
After delivering its precious cargo, the Hayabusa-2 probe (“Peregrine Falcon” in Japanese) left for a new mission in orbit around the sun, to record data on dust in interplanetary space and observe exoplanets.