Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of New Mexico

Physics and Astronomy Colloquium

Probing the Secrets of the Early Solar System: The Japanese Hayabusa2 Sample Return Mission to Carbonaceous Asteroid Ryugu

Presented by Dr. Adrian Brearley, Earth and Planetary Sciences, UNM

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched an ambitious sample return mission, Hayabusa2, to the carbonaceous asteroid, Ryugu, in December 2014. After two successful sample collection touchdowns in February and July 2019, the spacecraft will start its return journey in December 2019 and will deliver its pristine asteroidal samples to Earth in December 2020. Analyses of these unique samples will begin in early 2021 with a preliminary analysis phase that will last 6 months. Based on reflectance spectroscopy, carbonaceous asteroids, such as Ryugu, are the likely source of carbonaceous chondrites, the most chemical pristine early solar system materials available for study. Carbonaceous chondrites contain a wide range of organic materials that may have been the building blocks of life on Earth. Many of them are also water-rich and may have been one of the sources of water that was delivered to the early Earth. If successful, the Hayabusa2 mission will be the first sample return mission to collect carbonaceous chondrite materials from an asteroidal surface to compare directly with data obtained from meteorite samples. These unique, complex fine-grained samples have the potential to provide significant new insights into important scientific questions about the early evolution of our solar system. In my presentation, I will overview the Hayabusa2 mission, talk about the role that UNM will play in the preliminary analysis phase of the returned samples, and the science questions that will be addressed by coordinated investigations of these exciting new extraterrestrial samples.

3:30 pm, Friday, November 15, 2019
1100, PAIS

Refreshments will be available before the colloquium, at 3:15 pm.

Disability NoticeIndividuals with disabilities who need an auxiliary aid or service to attend or participate in P&A events should contact Sandra Ortiz (phone: 505-277-5900, email: well in advance to ensure your needs are accomodated. Event handouts can be provided in alternative accessible formats upon request. Please contact Mrs. Ortiz if you need written information in an alternative format.

A schedule of talks within the Department of Physics and Astronomy is available on the P&A web site at