Japan Accurately Calculated Ryugu Asteroid’s Age

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Health Editor’s Note: Something totally non-COVID-19 related….Carol

Japan’s Experiment to Calculate an Asteroid’s Age Was a Smashing Success

by Theresa Machemer/Smithsonianmag.com

Last April, Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft created an artificial crater on the asteroid, Ryugu, by hurling a four-pound copper ball, called SCI, toward the asteroid’s surface at about 4,500 miles per hour in order to calculate Ryugu’s age. Now, results from the out-of-this-world experiment are in.

Previous calculations suggested the surface of the asteroid might be anywhere from a few million to 200 million years old. The new study, published on March 19 in the journal Science, uses the results of the artificial impact to give a more accurate estimate of Ryugu’s age: between six and 11 million years old.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft got out of the way for the cannonball impact to protect itself from debris, but it left behind a camera to film the event. Three weeks later, the spacecraft returned to the site of the impact to measure the brand new cavity.

“I was so surprised that the SCI crater was so large,” lead author and Kobe University planetary scientist Masahiko Arakawa tells Charles Choi at Space. At 47 feet wide, the crater was larger than the team expected. The mark is about seven times larger than it would have been if a similar experiment was performed on Earth.

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