Asteroid Ryugu is porous, shaped like a spinning top, and is formed of rubble

asteroid ryugu first findings image 6269e 1
Hayabusa-2 image of the asteroid Ryugu as seen from a distance of 3.7 miles. JAXA / University of Tokyo / Kochi University / Rikkyo University / Nagoya University / Chiba Institute of Technology / Meiji University / University of Aizu / AIST.

The Japanese Space Agency, JAXA, has been exploring a distant asteroid named Ryugu with its probe, Hayabusa 2. After arriving at its destination 200 million miles from Earth, the probe managed to land on the asteroid in an incredible feat of engineering. Now the first results from study of the asteroid are in, with three new papers published.

The first finding is that Ryugu is porous and only loosely held together. It has “large surface boulders [that] suggest a rubble-pile structure,” according to a paper by Dr. Sei-Ichiro Watanabe of Nagoya University, Japan, and colleagues. This means the asteroid is an aggregate of many smaller rocks which are bound together by gravity, with a low level of cohesion and a high degree of porosity.

In addition, the large boulders observed on the surface like the one named Otohime suggest that rock fragments were pulled together to form Ryugu as they are too big to have been created by impacts. Overall, the asteroid has a “spinning top shape” which is similar to another asteroid currently being studied, Bennu.

The second study looked at the surface composition of Ryugu. Using near-infrared spectrometery, scientists found that hydrated minerals were spread across the surface. However, the asteroid was much drier than was expected.

“Just a few months after we received the first data we have already made some tantalizing discoveries,” Dr. Seiji Sugita, a researcher at the University of Tokyo and the Chiba Institute of Technology and co-author of the three studies, said to Science News. “The primary one being the amount of water, or lack of it, Ryugu seems to possess. It’s far dryer than we expected, and given Ryugu is quite young — by asteroid standards — at around 100 million years old, this suggests its parent body was largely devoid of water too.”

In the final study, the authors combined data from the other two papers to try to understand the origin of Ryugu. “Small asteroids, such as Ryugu, are estimated to have been born from much older parent bodies through catastrophic disruption and re-accumulation of fragments during the Solar System evolution,” the scientists told Science News. “Ryugu likely formed as rubble, ejected by an impact from a larger parent asteroid.”

This information sheds light not only on the composition and formation of Ryugu, but could also be applied to the study of other asteroids like Bennu. “That Bennu and Ryugu may be siblings yet exhibit some strikingly different traits implies there must be many exciting and mysterious astronomical processes we have yet to explore,” Dr. Sugita said.

The three papers are published in the journal Science.

Emerging Tech

Geoengineering is risky and unproven, but soon it might be necessary

Geoengineering is a field dedicated to purposely changing the world's climate using technology. Call it 'playing god' if you must; here's why its proponents believe it absolutely must happen.
Emerging Tech

Mercury’s wobble as it spins reveals that it has an inner solid core

Scientists have long wondered what the inside of Mercury looks like, and they now have strong evidence that the planet has a large and solid metallic core. The data for the new findings was collected by the now-defunct MESSENGER mission.
Movies & TV

Skip the flowers and sunshine this spring and watch the best shows on Hulu

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers surprised to find deep lakes of methane on Titan

In the two years since the Cassini probe burned up in Saturn's rings, data from its recordings is still being analyzed. The latest research has shown that Saturn's largest moon, Titan, hosts deep liquid lakes of methane on its surface.
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.

Google’s Stadia is the future of gaming, and that’s bad news for our planet

Google’s upcoming Stadia cloud gaming service, and its competitors, are ready to change the way gamers play, but in doing so they may kick off a new wave of data center growth – with unfortunate consequences for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Hawaiian botanists’ drone discovers a plant thought to be lost forever

In what may well be a world first, botanists in Hawaii recently used a drone to find a species of plant that scientists believed was extinct. The plant was located on a sheer cliff face nearly 20 years after its last sighting.
Emerging Tech

Alphabet’s Wing drones now have FAA approval to deliver packages in the U.S.

Alphabet Wing has become the first company to receive Air Carrier Certification from the FAA. This means that it can begin commercial deliveries from local businesses to homes in the U.S.
Emerging Tech

A battery-free pacemaker harvests and stores energy from heartbeats

Researchers in China and the United States have developed a new battery-free pacemaker which gathers its required electricity from the energy of heartbeats. Here's why that's so exciting.
Smart Home

The startup behind the world’s first laundry robot has folded

When the Laundroid was first announced almost three years ago, then shown off at last year's CES, it was met with a fair bit of both intrigue and derision. But now Seven Dreamers, the company behind it, says the company is out of money.