(CNN)A lander on the surface of Ryugu, a near-Earth asteroid, has shared new photos of the dark and rocky surface while highlighting new findings.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft dropped a lander called Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT, on the asteroid’s surface in October 2018. Ryugu is a dark, spinning top-shaped asteroid that measures about 3,000 feet wide. The surface is covered in boulders. It’s also incredibly dry. Japan lands spacecraft on distant asteroid to collect samplesDuring approach in October, the lander took photographs, showing an even distribution of dark and rough rocks, as well as those that are bright and smooth. Scientists believe there are two kinds of material on the asteroid because it likely formed from the leftover rubble after its parent body was hit. The rocks are similar to carbonaceous chondrites, which are primitive meteorites. Some of the rocks contain small, colored materials called inclusions that could contain minerals like olivine. This is also found in carbonaceous chondrites.As the lander approached the asteroid looking down, it captured this view of boulders on the surface.Read MoreBut for such a dry asteroid, something appears to be missing in the images: dust. There are no visible fine particles or dust on the surface, which scientists expected due to weathering. Japan asteroid probe in 'tantalizing' solar system discoveries Because of this, they believe that some kind of unseen mechanism is removing the dust from the asteroid. That could include impacts by other materials in space, seismic shaking or the migration of boulders.The spacecraft first arrived at the asteroid in June 2018 to carry out experiments. In April it blasted a small crater on the surface of the rock using a device packed with plastic explosive, to collect samples from deeper within the asteroid.The lander took this image after making first contact on the asteroid.Hayabusa2 will depart Ryugu in December 2019 and return to Earth by the end of 2020 with its precious cargo of samples to be analyzed by scientists.If it makes it back to Earth on schedule it will be the first mission to bring back samples from a C-class asteroid, which hasn’t been visited before.