A BALL OF FIRE is set to illuminate the Australian skies on Sunday morning while a capsule with the first asteroid samples returns to Earth and provides clues to the origins of our planet
- Japanese capsule with first underground samples returning to Earth
- A fireball will light up the skies over the South Australian outback when it lands
- Will enter the earth's atmosphere on Saturday at 5:28 p.m. 200 km north of Woomera
- Scientists hope the samples will provide clues as to the origin of the earth
A fireball is said to illuminate the skies over the South Australian outback and signal the return to Earth 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.
The clearance from the spaceship took place this morning at 5:30 a.m. When entering the earth's atmosphere, the fireball will sweep across the sky on Saturday at around 5:28 p.m., i.e. on Sunday at 3 a.m. in Australian Central Daylight Time (ACDT).
It should appear about 200 kilometers north of Woomera for about a minute.
The fireball is only seen with the naked eye by Australians, but can be seen from elsewhere using a large telescope.
It is expected to land in a baron region of the Australian outback near Woomera, South Australia at around 5:57 p.m. (GMT) on Saturday, which will be around 3:30 a.m. (ACDT).
"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 Hayabusa2 spaceship 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 approximately 10 kilometers, a parachute is deployed and a beacon signal is launched, allowing a rescue team to locate its landing site in the Woomera area in a protected area.
SCHEDULE: What happened in the six years between take-off and landing?
December 3, 2014: Started
December 3, 2015: Earth Flyby
June 27, 2018: Arrival at asteroid Ryugu
September 21, 2018: Two Minerva II1 Rovers deployed on asteroids
October 3, 2018: Use of the MASCOT lander on asteroids
October 14, 2018: Rehearsals for the asteroid landing begin
Early 2019: Use of an impactor followed by a touchdown to collect a sample
July 2019: Use of the remaining rovers
November to December 2019: Spaceship leaves asteroids
December 2020: Hayabusa 2 brings the asteroid sample to Earth
"This is really 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.
Upon retrieving it, scientists say its potential importance should not be underestimated.
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.
"Something like Ryugu brought water to earth and that's why we're here," he said.
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, Victoria more than 50 years ago has fallen.
"The Murchison meteorite opened a window to the creation of organics on Earth, as these rocks were found to 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 named 1998 KY26 in July 2031.
In 2014, Hayabusa2 was launched by an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima, Japan and came back to Earth with its ion motors last year.
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 & # 39; 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.
An artistic illustration of the rendezvous of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft with the asteroid Ryugu
The mission visited a previously unexplored area known as Oceanus Procellarum or "Ocean of Storms".
Dr. Tucker said such missions enabled 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 in space," he said.
"Missions like Hayabusa2 lay the foundation for this venture."
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