The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Thursday that 10 smaller, man-made craters had been found on an asteroid in addition to the larger crater its Hayabusa2 space probe produced last month as part of its mission to gain insight into the origin of life and the evolution of the solar system.
When the asteroid explorer fired a metal object at the Ryugu asteroid on April 5 to create a crater in a world first, scattered fragments of the impactor made other craters, about 1 meter in diameter each, JAXA said.
The newly discovered craters along with the initial one found earlier — which is about 10 meters in diameter and 2 to 3 meters in depth — are expected to help the agency examine the surface of the asteroid and estimate its age, according to JAXA.
The agency will continue to investigate the surface of Ryugu, around 340 million kilometers from Earth, in the hope that by June it will have found a suitable site for Hayabusa2 to collect more surface samples following the first such procedure in February.
Launched in December 2014 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, Hayabusa2 reached Ryugu last June and is scheduled to return to Earth around the end of 2020 after completing its mission.