Impact crater data analysis of Ryugu asteroid illuminates complicated geological history


IMAGE: Figure 1: Size and area of craters on Ryugu (Figure from the Journal paper): The craters are numbered in order of size.
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Credit: Kobe University

Analysis of the impact craters on Ryugu utilizing the spacecraft Hayabusa 2’s remote noticing image data has actually lit up the geological history of the Near-Earth asteroid.

A research study group led by Assistant Professor Naoyuki Hirata of the Department of Planetology at Kobe University’s Graduate School of Science exposed 77 craters on Ryugu. Through examining the area patterns and qualities of the craters, they identified that the asteroid’s eastern and western hemispheres were formed at various durations of time.

It is hoped that the gathered data can be utilized as a basis for future asteroid research study and analysis.

These outcomes were very first released in the American Scientific Journal ‘Icarus‘ on November 5 2019.


The Japan Space Agency (JAXA)’s Hayabusa 2 has actually been utilized to perform numerous objectives to increase our understanding of the spinning top-shaped, Near-Earth asteroid Ryugu. Given that getting here in June 2018, the unmanned spacecraft has actually taken samples and a variety of images of the asteroid. It is hoped that these can expose more about Ryugu’s development and history.

This research study group concentrated on utilizing the image data to figure out the number and area of impact craters on the asteroid. Impact craters are formed when a smaller sized asteroid or a comet strikes the surface area of the asteroid. Examining the spatial circulation and the number of impact craters can expose the frequency of accidents and help scientists in figuring out the age of various area.

Research Methodology

First of all, the image data from Hayabusa 2 was evaluated. Hayabusa 2 has various types of video camera consisting of Optical Navigation Cameras (ONC). The ONC group has actually had the ability to take around 5000 images of Ryugu, which have actually exposed numerous surface area functions- consisting of impact craters. For this research study, image data gotten from the ‘ONC-T’ video camera in between July 2018 and February 2019 was used. The research study group needed to figure out which of these images revealed craters. 340 images were utilized for crater counting, with stereopair images making it simpler to recognize the craters. An international image mosaic map was built from the ONC images and rendered onto the computer system design of Ryugu’s shape. Little Body Mapping Tool software application was then utilized to determine the size, latitude and longitude of the craters. A LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging pulsed laser) was likewise used to figure out the total size of Ryugu.

The anxieties recognized on Ryugu were divided into 4 classifications- depending upon how apparent their circular look was. Classification I to III anxieties were categorized as unique craters. Classification IV anxieties just had quasi-circular functions, for that reason it was tough to figure out whether they were craters or not. Lots of craters were filled with stones or did not have an unique shape. Anxieties that were too unclear to figure out were excluded of the outcomes.

Research Results

The research study group had the ability to recognize all impact craters over 10 to 20m in size on Ryugu’s whole surface area- an overall of 77 craters. In addition, a pattern was found in their circulation. The area of the eastern hemisphere near the meridian was discovered to have the most craters. This is the location near the big crater called Cendrillon – which is one of Ryugu’s greatest. On the other hand, there are barely any craters in the western hemisphere- recommending that this part of the asteroid was formed later on. The analysis likewise exposed that there are more craters at lower latitudes than at greater latitudes on Ryugu. To put it simply, there are really couple of craters in Ryugu’s polar areas.

The equatorial ridge in the eastern hemisphere was identified to be a fossil structure. When asteroids like Ryugu turn at high speeds, this can modify their shape. It is believed that this ridge formed in the remote past throughout a duration when it just took Ryugu 3 hours to turn. As the eastern hemisphere and western hemisphere were formed at various durations of the asteroid’s history- this recommends that there have actually been at least 2 circumstances where Ryugu’s rotational speed has actually increased.

Further Research

The outcomes of this research study were put together into an international impact crater brochure for Ryugu. It is hoped that this database can be utilized as a basis for future research study which comparing these outcomes with those of a comparable asteroid will cause higher understanding about these huge things.

Hayabusa2 is set up to drop the pill including samples of Ryugu’s surface area into Earth’s environment in late 2020. Analysis of these samples need to supply more insight into the asteroid and how it was formed.



Stereopair images: images of the very same things however from a various angle. Seeing the images in a stereopair with each eye can make the image appear 3D- providing a sense of depth.

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