- Paul Rincon
- BBC News Science Editor
An Australian team located and recovered a space capsule carrying samples from an asteroid.
And they are estimated to be the first significant amounts of an aerolite to shed new light on the history of the solar system.
The capsule, which contains space rock material called Ryugu, crashed into a parachute near Woomera, a desert area in southern Australia.
The samples were collected by the Japanese spacecraft called Hayabusa-2, which spent more than a year researching the asteroid.
The capsule – or container – separated from Hayabusa-2 before entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
Hayabusa-2’s official Twitter account reported that the container and its parachute were found at 7:47 p.m. this Saturday (GMT).
Earlier, cameras had captured images of the capsule descending “like a dazzling fireball” over the Australian city of Coober Pedy.
The container deployed its parachute to slow its descent.
At the time of its entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, the capsule began to transmit information about its own position.
The spacecraft finally landed in Woomera, an area under the control of the Royal Australian Air Force.
When the recovery team identified where the capsule had landed, around 18:07 GMT, a helicopter, equipped with an antenna, was deployed to find the container.
It is now under a “quick review” protocol before being flown to Japan.
Then the capsule, which has a weight of 16 kilograms, Will be transferred to a conservation chamber at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in the city of Sagamihara for analysis and storage.
The Japanese mission sought to collect a sample of more than 100 milligrams from the asteroid Ryugu.
Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, of Queen’s University in Belfast (Northern Ireland), explained that the sample is capable of revealing much data “not only about the history of the Solar System, but also about these particular objects .
Asteroids are, in essence, leftover construction objects from the formation of the solar system.
They are made of the same material that formed planets like Earth.
“Having samples of an asteroid like Ryugu will be really exciting for our field. We believe that Ryugu is made up of super ancient rocks that will tell us how the solar system formed,” said Professor Sara Russell, a researcher in the materials group. planetariums of the Natural History Museum in London, on the BBC.
The study of samples taken from Ryugu could tell us how water and the ingredients for life came to primitive Earth.
For a long time it was thought that comets were the carriers of much of the water of the Earth in the early days of the solar system.
Professor Fitzsimmons points out, instead, that the chemical profile of water in stars was different from the profile of water in our planet’s oceans.
However, the composition of water in some asteroids in the outer Solar System is more similar.
“We may have been looking in the stars for the origin of water on Earth during the early Solar System. Maybe we had to look a little closer to home, in these primitive but rather rocky asteroids,” says the expert to the BBC.
“In fact, this is something that will be analyzed very carefully in these Ryugu samples,” he concludes.
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