At 13:51 UTC, the Hayabusa spacecraft -- having traveled to an asteroid and back, surviving countless challenges-- broke up into a fiery meteor over the midnight, midwinter Australian sky.
Wakayama University / animation by Emily Lakdawalla
Hayabusa lights up the Australian sky
In ten screen caps from a Web camera feed run by Wakayama University, the Hayabusa spacecraft ends its seven-year mission by burning up over Australian skies.
Its capsule should now be on the ground. Word via Twitter is that the beacon signal was picked up from the capsule. It will be tracked and located via helicopter tonight, but they will not go out to retrieve it until daylight, some hours from now.
It's a day both triumphant and sad. Many, many congratulations to the #Hayabusa team!! I will keep Tweeting news as I get it!
Here's the whole video -- the fireball's about 3 minutes in:
And here's an amazing shot from Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper: