On 6 December, samples of the asteroid Ryugu collected by Japanese probe Hayabusa2 are scheduled to arrive. If everything goes as planned, a capsule containing these samples should land in the Australian desert.
The touchdown will be the conclusion of an important chapter in the history of the study and exploration of asteroids. The Hayabusa2 probe was launched in late 2014 and reached the asteroid Ryugu almost 4 years later. Once there, the spacecraft released four mini rovers, called HIBOU, OWL, MINERVA-II and MASCOT to make several measurements of the celestial body. Three descended to the surface, the other stays in temporary orbit around Ryugu.
In 2019, Hayabusa2 collected material from the asteroid at two different sites. The second collection was made after the impact of a projectile, which exposed material from below the surface of the asteroid. In November of that year, Hayabusa2 left the asteroid Ryugu to start home for Earth.
The samples will arrive in Australia on 6 December (this could feel like a day earlier depending on what time zone you’re in). It will be a great opportunity for new activities!
As on Asteroid Day in June, technology is our ally. Almost all Asteroid Day 2020 activities were virtual. If you are planning an event around Hayabusa2’s return, please stay safe.
The return will be a good time to explain the history of space exploration missions to asteroids. There have been dedicated asteroid missions like NEAR Shoemaker, Deep Space 1, Stardust, Hayabusa 1, Deep Impact, Dawn, and OSIRIS-REx. There have also been other missions that took advantage of their journeys through the Solar System to fly-by asteroids en-route. These missions were Galileo, Cassini-Huygens, Chang’e-2, Rosetta and New Horizons.
NASA’s Galileo mission made history by providing the first close-up image of an asteroid the world has ever seen when it flew past Gaspra in 1991.
You could present to your audience all the stages of the Hayabusa2 mission, its results so far and its future. Recently, JAXA announced that the probe will continue on to another asteroid rendezvous. It will meet asteroid 1998 KY26 in 2031.
If it is not possible to make a live-stream of your activity, there are interesting alternatives that you can produce. A videocast of a few minutes, such as those produced by organizers from Trinidad and Tobago or Mexico can serve as an example to explain in a simple way the saga of the Hayabusa2 mission. They used the YouTube platform, but others like Vimeo or DailyMotion can be used.
For people without time to make videos there is the option to produce a podcast, like the one made by the AstroGEDA team from Spain talking about Asteroid Day. They used the Ivoox platform, but there are other very popular ones like Spotify, Deezer, Castbox or SoundCloud.
A really cool idea to interact with students of all ages is a quiz about the Hayabusa2 mission. Research and construct 10 or 15 questions about the mission. During Asteroid Day, the Traveling Telescope team from Kenya made a quiz about asteroids through the social network Facebook.
Another idea that involves children and young people is a writing contest. Ask the participants to create a message wishing Hayabusa2 good luck, and reward the most creative.
Whatever you do, enjoy the day and be sure to register your activity on the Asteroid Day page. Have a good event!
Asteroid Day Global Coordinator
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Saulo Machado is the Asteroid Day Global Event Coordinator. Since 2016, Saulo has been the Brazil Regional Coordinator, where he helped organizers host their Asteroid Day events all over Brazil.
With a passion for astronomy and scientific dissemination, Saulo works as a business administrator in Fortaleza, Brazil. He is the Founder of the Astronomical Events Support Group (GaeA) and hosts Asteroid Day events in observatories, planetariums and astronomy groups throughout Brazil.