During the interval from September through early December 2005, the Hayabusa spacecraft was in close proximity to near-Earth asteroid 25143 Itokawa, and a variety of data were taken on its shape, mass, and surface topography as well as its mineralogic and elemental abundances. The asteroid's orthogonal axes are 535, 294, and 209 meters, the mass is 3.51 x 10(10) kilograms, and the estimated bulk density is 1.9 +/- 0.13 grams per cubic centimeter. The correspondence between the smooth areas on the surface (Muses Sea and Sagamihara) and the gravitationally low regions suggests mass movement and an effective resurfacing process by impact jolting. Itokawa is considered to be a rubble-pile body because of its low bulk density, high porosity, boulder-rich appearance, and shape. The existence of very large boulders and pillars suggests an early collisional breakup of a preexisting parent asteroid followed by a re-agglomeration into a rubble-pile object.
The Hayabusa2 spacecraft arrived at the near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid 162173 Ryugu in 2018. We present Hayabusa2 observations of Ryugu’s shape, mass, and geomorphology. Ryugu has an oblate ‘spinning top’ shape with a prominent circular equatorial ridge. Its bulk density, 1.19 ± 0.02 g cm–3, indicates a high porosity (>50%) interior. Large surface boulders suggest a rubble-pile structure. Surface slope analysis shows Ryugu’s shape may have been produced if it once spun at twice the current rate. Coupled with the observed global material homogeneity, this suggests that Ryugu was reshaped by centrifugally induced deformation during a period of rapid rotation. From these remote-sensing investigations, we identify a suitable sample collection site on the equatorial ridge.
The near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid 162173 Ryugu is thought to have been produced from a parent body that contained water ice and organic molecules. The Hayabusa2 spacecraft has obtained global multi-color images of Ryugu. Geomorphological features present include a circum-equatorial ridge, east/west dichotomy, high boulder abundances across the entire surface, and impact craters. Age estimates from the craters indicate a resurfacing age of ≲106 years for the top 1-meter layer. Ryugu is among the darkest known bodies in the Solar System. The high abundance and spectral properties of boulders are consistent with moderately dehydrated materials, analogous to thermally metamorphosed meteorites found on Earth. The general uniformity in color across Ryugu’s surface supports partial dehydration due to internal heating of the asteroid’s parent body.
High-resolution images of the surface of asteroid Itokawa from the Hayabusa mission reveal it to be covered with unconsolidated millimeter-sized and larger gravels. Locations and morphologic characteristics of this gravel indicate that Itokawa has experienced considerable vibrations, which have triggered global-scale granular processes in its dry, vacuum, microgravity environment. These processes likely include granular convection, landslide-like granular migrations, and particle sorting, resulting in the segregation of the fine gravels into areas of potential lows. Granular processes become major resurfacing processes because of Itokawa's small size, implying that they can occur on other small asteroids should those have regolith.
It has been thought that the lunar highland crust was formed by the crystallization and floatation of plagioclase from a global magma ocean, although the actual generation mechanisms are still debated. The composition of the lunar highland crust is therefore important for understanding the formation of such a magma ocean and the subsequent evolution of the Moon. The Multiband Imager on the Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE) has a high spatial resolution of optimized spectral coverage, which should allow a clear view of the composition of the lunar crust. Here we report the global distribution of rocks of high plagioclase abundance (approaching 100 vol.%), using an unambiguous plagioclase absorption band recorded by the SELENE Multiband Imager. If the upper crust indeed consists of nearly 100 vol.% plagioclase, this is significantly higher than previous estimates of 82-92 vol.% (refs 2, 6, 7), providing a valuable constraint on models of lunar magma ocean evolution.
The Hayabusa2 spacecraft investigated the small asteroid Ryugu, which has a rubble-pile structure. We describe an impact experiment on Ryugu using Hayabusa2’s Small Carry-on Impactor. The impact produced an artificial crater with a diameter >10 meters, which has a semicircular shape, an elevated rim, and a central pit. Images of the impact and resulting ejecta were recorded by the Deployable CAMera 3 for >8 minutes, showing the growth of an ejecta curtain (the outer edge of the ejecta) and deposition of ejecta onto the surface. The ejecta curtain was asymmetric and heterogeneous and it never fully detached from the surface. The crater formed in the gravity-dominated regime; in other words, crater growth was limited by gravity not surface strength. We discuss implications for Ryugu’s surface age.
Rendezvous of the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa with the near-Earth asteroid 25143 Itokawa took place during the interval September through November 2005. The onboard camera imaged the solid surface of this tiny asteroid (535 meters by 294 meters by 209 meters) with a spatial resolution of 70 centimeters per pixel, revealing diverse surface morphologies. Unlike previously explored asteroids, the surface of Itokawa reveals both rough and smooth terrains. Craters generally show unclear morphologies. Numerous boulders on Itokawa's surface suggest a rubble-pile structure.
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