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AFP
April 26, 2019

Japan creates first crater on asteroid

World

AFP
April 26, 2019

Japanese scientists have succeeded in creating what they called the first-ever artificial crater on an asteroid, a step towards shedding light on how the solar system evolved, the country’s space agency said on Thursday.

The announcement comes after the Hayabusa2 probe fired an explosive device at the Ryugu asteroid early this month to blast a crater in the surface and scoop up material, aiming to reveal more about the origins of life on Earth.

Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa2 project manager at the Japanese space agency (JAXA), told reporters they confirmed the crater from images captured by the probe located 1,700 metres from the asteroid’s surface.

"Creating an artificial crater with an impactor and observing it in detail afterwards is a world-first attempt," Tsuda said. "This is a big success." Nasa’s Deep Impact probe succeeded in creating an artificial crater on a comet in 2005, but only for observation purposes.

Masahiko Arakawa, a Kobe University professor involved in the project, said it was "the best day of his life". "We can see such a big hole a lot more clearly than expected," he said, adding the images showed a crater 10 metres in diameter.

JAXA scientists had previously predicted that the crater could be as large as 10 metres in diameter if the surface was sandy, or three metres if rocky. "The surface is filled with boulders but yet we created a crater this big. This could mean there’s a scientific mechanism we don’t know or something special about Ryugu’s materials," the professor said.

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