Seen on a microscopic assist, this sharp-edged grain of rock is an extraterrestrial object – a tiny pattern from the Itokawa asteroid, retrieved by Japan’s Hayabusa mission and now being examined by ESA researchers.
Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft was the world’s first mission to retrieve samples from the floor of an asteroid and return them to Earth. Beset by many issues, after a seven-year, six-billion-km odyssey Hayabusa returned round 1 500 treasured asteroid grains to Earth.
Extraordinarily treasured, these Hayabusa grains have change into the main focus of scientific examine around the globe – and three of them are at the moment right here, at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre within the Netherlands.
Researcher Fabrice Cipriani is main analysis into their static charging properties, to grasp the results for the floor environments of asteroids.