For the Second Time Ever, an Asteroid Sample Returns to Earth

Early on Sunday morning, the skies above a secluded military complex in central Australia will be brightened by a fireball plummeting to Earth. It will be a flamboyant homecoming for the sample return capsule from Hayabusa2, a Japanese spacecraft launched almost exactly six years ago on a mission to shoot an ancient asteroid and steal some of its dirt. If the capsule survives its fiery descent, its payload of pristine space rock will help scientists understand the earliest days of our solar system, shed light on the mysterious origins of meteorites, and may even provide clues about the emergence of life on Earth.

By the time it lands under parachute in the Australian outback, the sample will have traveled more than 180 million miles from Ryugu, a diamond-shaped asteroid orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars. Scientists believe that Ryugu broke off from a larger parent body only a few

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Japan Space Probe To Bring Asteroid Dust To Earth

Call it a special delivery: after six years in space, Japan’s Hayabusa-2 probe is heading home, but only to drop off its rare asteroid samples before starting a new mission.

The fridge-sized probe, launched in December 2014, has already thrilled scientists by landing on and gathering material from an asteroid some 300 million kilometres (185 million miles) from Earth.

Hayabusa-2 will near Earth to drop off rare asteroid samples before heading back into deep space on a new extended mission Hayabusa-2 will near Earth to drop off rare asteroid samples before heading back into deep space on a new extended mission Photo: AFP / Behrouz MEHRI

But its work isn’t over yet, with scientists from Japan’s space agency JAXA now planning to extend its mission for more than a decade and targeting two new asteroids.

Before that mission can begin, Hayabusa-2 needs to drop off its precious samples from the asteroid Ryugu — “dragon palace” in Japanese.

Scientists are hoping the capsule will contain around 0.1 grams of material that will

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NASA: Mystery object is 54-year-old rocket, not asteroid

Scientists have confirmed that a mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all, astronomers confirmed Wednesday.

The object was classified as an asteroid after its discovery in September. But NASA’s top asteroid expert, Paul Chodas, quickly suspected it was the Centaur upper rocket stage from Surveyor 2, a failed 1966 moon-landing mission. Size estimates had put it in the range of the old Centaur, which was about 32 feet (10 meters) long and 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter.

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Japan is about to bring back samples of an asteroid 180 million miles away

Sample return missions are becoming increasingly in vogue, as evidenced by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission and China’s current Chang’e 5 drilling operation on the moon. But they aren’t easy. In February 2019, Hayabusa2 landed on the surface and fired two small bullets into the asteroid to stir up a cloud of particles from which the sample arm could collect debris. It fired a larger projectile in April that same year, diving down to the surface a couple months later to retrieve even more ejected material. 

Whereas the first Hayabusa mission was only able to bring back a millionth of a gram through this approach, there’s optimism Hayabusa2 will bring back much more. “I am proud of this success, even though I don’t know yet that the re-entry [of the sample capsule] will be successful,” says Eri Tatsumi, a planetary scientist at the University of La Laguna in Spain who has been

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180-Foot Asteroid Will Come Extremely Close To Earth Thursday, Will Be Closer Than Moon


  • A 180-foot asteroid called 2020 VZ6 will be zipping by Earth Thursday
  • The asteroid will be closer to the planet than the moon at one point during its flyby
  • The space rock has not been included in the European Space Agency’s Risk List

A 180-foot asteroid will be zipping by Earth at a very close distance this week, according to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

A near-Earth asteroid (NEA) called 2020 VZ6 is currently making its way toward Earth’s vicinity and is set to make its closest approach to the planet Thursday. With a diameter reaching 180 feet (55 meters), this asteroid is estimated to be as tall as the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. The freestanding bell tower has a height of about 185 feet (56 meters).

The NEA’s size isn’t the most interesting part about it. 2020 VZ6, according to the CNEOS’ close

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An Object Approaching Earth’s Orbit Is Not An Asteroid [Infographic]

The Pan-STARRS1 survey telescope on Maui has discovered an object that is headed for Earth’s orbit. This isn’t out of the ordinary except that this object is apparently not an asteroid. In fact, it may even be man-made. After studying the new object scientists concluded that it’s not dense enough to be a solid object. Which means it is probably hollow. This has led to the theory that this object might be the Centaur upper stage rocket booster that helped NASA’s Surveyor 2 reach the Moon in 1966.

Earlier this year in September the mysterious object was discovered and named 2020 SO. As astronomers continued to observe the object, they noticed that the Sun’s radiation was changing the object’s trajectory. This means that the object is most likely not an asteroid as radiation from the Sun would have a hard time pushing a solid object of this size. However, if

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820-Foot Asteroid Is Zooming Toward Earth At 68,000 Mph, To Make Close Approach This Week


  • 2020 WD5 will zip past Earth on Thursday 
  • The NEA is taller than the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
  • The NEA has not been added to the ESA Risk List

To welcome the final month of the year is an 820 ft (250 m) asteroid, according to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). The giant, which is expected to be three-fourths as tall as the Eiffel Tower, is set to pass Thursday.

CNEOS’ Close Approach Data Table reported that a Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) identified as 2020 WD5 is hurtling toward Earth this week. The NEA is said to be traveling at a speed of 18 miles per second (about 68,000 mph) and is expected to make its close approach Thursday, at 4:27 p.m. EDT.

The asteroid 2020 WD5 is about three-fourths as big as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. The tower, considered as the largest

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Japan spacecraft carrying asteroid soil samples nears home

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese spacecraft is nearing Earth after a yearlong journey home from a distant asteroid with soil samples and data that could provide clues to the origins of the solar system, a space agency official said Friday.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft left the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers (180 million miles) from Earth, a year ago and is expected to reach Earth and drop a capsule containing the precious samples in southern Australia on Dec. 6.

Scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency believe the samples, especially those taken from under the asteroid’s surface, contain valuable data unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors.

Makoto Yoshikawa, a Hayabusa2 project mission manager, said scientists are especially interested in analyzing organic materials in the Ryugu soil samples.

“Organic materials are origins of life on Earth, but we still don(asterisk)t know where they came from,” Yoshikawa said. “We are

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2,690-Foot Asteroid Makes Close Approach To Earth On Thanksgiving Weekend


  • A massive asteroid will pass by Earth Sunday at 1:08 a.m. EST, according to NASA’s CNEOS
  • The space rock is estimated to be as massive as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai at 2,690 feet
  • The giant asteroid will zip past Earth harmlessly and is not included in the ESA’s Risk List

Passing by this Thanksgiving weekend is a rare 2,690-foot asteroid — a memorable way to mark this year’s holiday amid the pandemic.

Data gathered by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies showed that an asteroid nearly as massive as the Burj Khalifa is expected to zip past Earth Sunday at 1:08 a.m. EST.

The giant asteroid, identified as 153201 (2000 WO107), is the biggest among the several near-Earth asteroids (NEA) that will make close approaches to Earth this week. If the visual of the Burj Khalifa (2,720 feet) in Dubai is not enough to give an idea

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Dinosaurs were doing just fine until the asteroid hit, new research says


NASA’s depiction of the asteroid that ended the time of the dinosaurs.


A study out of London’s Natural History Museum suggests most dinosaurs were “flourishing” before the asteroid hit and wiped them out. While other studies have hypothesized that mercury poisoning or even flowers killed the dinosaurs before the asteroid could, this new study published Nov. 18 aims to disprove that “dinosaurs were already on the decline and heading towards extinction.”

“What we found is that the dinosaurs were still dominant, they were still widespread and still doing really well,” said Joe Bonsor, a PhD student who contributed data to the study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal. “If the asteroid impact had never happened then they might not have died out and they would have continued after the Cretaceous.”

Previous research has drawn conclusions from a lack of fossils, claiming it shows a decline in

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