World News – AU – FIREBALL lights up the Australian skies as a capsule returns to Earth


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Posted: 05:43 GMT, 5. December 2020 | Updated: 05:43 GMT, Jan.. December 2020

A fireball is said to illuminate the skies over the South Australian outback and signal the return of a Japanese capsule containing the first asteroid samples below the surface that could provide clues as to the origins of life on earth.

The capsule was on board the Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which first landed on the Ryugu asteroid, which was more than 300 million kilometers from Earth, last February.

Clearance from the spaceship is scheduled for late Saturday, but when it enters Earth’s atmosphere the fireball will sweep the sky around 4 a.m. on Sunday, about 200 kilometers north of Woomera, north of SA.

« This is going to be spectacular. So if you live nearby, get up early and watch the sky, « said Professor Masaki Fujimoto of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

This computer graphic image published by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the spaceship Hayabusa2 over the asteroid Ryugu

Members of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) are seen during a media tour of the new Range Operations Center on the Woomera Test Range ahead of the Hayabusa2 return mission in Woomera, South Australia, on Saturday

The fireball is brightest when the capsule is approximately 40 by 50 kilometers (25 miles). However, when it drops to about 10 kilometers, a parachute is deployed and a beacon signal is started, with which a rescue team can precisely determine its landing site in the Woomera reserve.

« This really is the grand finale of a 10-year effort if you count the development time and the six-year cruise of the spacecraft itself, » said Professor Fujimoto.

It is believed that asteroids formed early in the solar system and Ryugu may contain organic matter that may have contributed to life on Earth.

Professor Fujimoto said that when the earth was first created it was dry and in order for life to begin, water had to be brought to the planet.

Australian National University space rock expert Trevor Ireland, who is in Woomera, said he expected the Ryugu samples to resemble the meteorite found in Australia near Murchison more than 50 years ago , Victoria, has fallen.

« The Murchison meteorite opened a window to the creation of organics on earth, as it was found that these rocks contain simple amino acids and abundant water, » said Professor Ireland.

‘We will investigate whether Ryugu was a potential source of organic matter and water on Earth when the solar system was formed, and whether these are still intact on the asteroid. ‘

After releasing its precious cargo, Hayabusa2 will begin a second 10-year mission to rendezvous with a much smaller asteroid called 1998 KY26 in July 2031.

Astronomer Brad Tucker said advancing technology has allowed space missions to regularly land on objects in space and return to Earth.

Just this week, China successfully landed a spaceship with its Chang’e-5 probe on the lunar surface to collect two kilograms of lunar material and help scientists learn more about the origins of the moon.

Dr. Tucker said such missions allowed scientists to « get our hands dirty and learn a lot about the solar system and our own planet ». .

« Future space and reconnaissance missions must be able to extract resources from space, » he said.

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Asteroid, Hayabusa2, Earth, JAXA, 162173 Ryugu, Hayabusa

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