Jason DavisJun 18, 2018

Rotatin' Ryugu!

One of the coolest things about a mission to a new world is that as the spacecraft approaches, you get to see the world gradually take shape before your eyes. Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft is now less than 200 kilometers from Ryugu, the small, near-Earth asteroid from which it will collect a sample for return to Earth in 2020. Until now, we've only known Ryugu as a point of light, but behold!—It's starting to become a lumpy asteroid in Hayabusa2's navigation cameras:

A day on Ryugu
A day on Ryugu This animation was created from 52 images captured by Hayabusa2's ONC-T (Optical Navigation Camera - Telescopic) on June 14 and June 15. The asteroid makes a complete rotation every 7 hours, 38 minutes. JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST

Just for reference, here's what shape models of Ryugu were predicting back in 2017:

Estimation of the shape of Ryugu
Estimation of the shape of Ryugu T. Müller et al. A&A 599, A103, 2017

And finally, here's a recap of what we've seen so far during the approach:

Ryugu approach
Ryugu approach This sequence of images shows Ryugu increasing in size and resolution as Hayabusa2 approaches. Phil Stooke / JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST

Hayabusa2 is closing on Ryugu at a leisurely 0.83 meters per second. It will arrive between June 21 and July 5, approaching to within 20 kilometers.

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