A strange black sand is found in the capsule brought to Earth by the Hayabusa 2 probe, scientists confirmed after opening it on Monday.
The discovery comes a week after the probe dropped its capsule, which tore through the atmosphere like a beam of light to land in the Woomera desert, to be picked up and taken to Japan.
Now, the Japanese space agency (JAXA) has published the image of a small deposit of soot material inside the metal box; a first look at the results of an unprecedented six-year mission that brought the first samples of an asteroid to Earth
According to agency officials, the powder was found on the outer shell of the capsule, and more substantial samples are expected to be found when the inner container is opened, a delicate task that will take a few more days.
“JAXA has confirmed that the samples derived from the asteroid Ryugu are inside the sample container,” the agency said. “We were able to confirm black sand-like particles believed to belong to the asteroid Ryugu.”
Hayabusa 2 traveled about 300 million kilometers from our planet to collect the samples, which scientists hope will help shed light on the origin of life and the formation of the universe.
The probe collected both surface dust and pristine material from below the surface that was stirred up when an “impactor” was fired at the asteroid.
Half of the samples collected will be shared between JAXA, NASA, and other international organizations, with the rest kept for future study as advances in analytical technology are made.
But work is not done for the probe, which will now begin an extended mission targeting two new asteroids.