Images of the surface of Ryugu broadcast on 23 August by the German space agency, some of which taken at night, lit by the leds of the little lander Mascot, show that the asteroid has a great similarity with a meteorite class dating back to origin of the Solar System.

For the rest, the image may not be very spectacular. But for who knows how to decrypt it, it is fascinating.

This night zoom of the surface of the asteroid Ryugu – the image is about 30 cm aside – was made last October more than 300 million kilometers from the Earth, by the small lander Mascot dropped by the Japanese probe Hayabusa 2.

Illuminated by 3 colored leds, the surface of Ryugu appears as a dark, slightly reddish ground, studded with brilliant inclusions. According to the European team that analyzed this image, published with others this August 23 in the journal Science, these inclusions and their abundance strongly recall some carbonaceous chondrites like Tagish Lake meteorites.

The meteorites of Tagish Lake present the same incusions as the surface of Ryugu.
Credit: Michale Holly, Creative Service, University of Alberta

Rainfall in Canada in 2000, the Tagish Lake meteorites are a rare and very old type of chondrite.

Other images made by Mascot during his descent on Ryugu show that the asteroid is covered with two types of rocks: dark and rough or shiny and smooth. Their uniform distribution could mean that Ryugu is actually the accumulation of debris from two different bodies that would have totally dislocated during a violent encounter.


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