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Hayabusa 2 hopping probe photos show Ryugu asteroid has rocky surface

This picture taken by Hayabusa 2's robotic probe on Sept. 23, 2018 shows the rocky surface of the asteroid Ryugu. The white section near the top center is sunlight. (Photo courtesy of JAXA)
This picture taken by Hayabusa 2's robotic probe shows the rocky surface of the asteroid Ryugu. (Photo courtesy of JAXA)

TOKYO -- The asteroid Ryugu has a very rugged terrain covered with myriad rocks and stones, photographs taken by two small robot observers jumping around on the celestial body show.

The pictures were beamed back across the some 300 million kilometers separating Earth and the asteroid via the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)'s Hayabusa 2 explorer. The agency made some of the pictures public on Sept. 27.

This picture taken by the Hayabusa 2 explorer from 64 meters above Ryugu shows the asteroid's rocky surface. (Photo courtesy of JAXA)

The robots released by Hayabusa 2 and landed on Ryugu on Sept. 21 had taken more than 100 pictures by Sept. 27. The two observers made a total of 13 jumps, moving about 10 to 20 meters each hop. JAXA associate professor Tetsuo Yoshimitsu, who developed the robots, said he was happy to see the devices actually at work on the asteroid. "They were successful because of the overall technological prowess of Japan," he said.

Hayabusa 2 will analyze the data collected by the two robots for its own landing on the asteroid planned for late October. The explorer is also set to release a small lander developed by the space agencies of Germany and France on Oct. 3.

(Japanese original by Tomohiro Ikeda, Science & Environment News Department)

This picture taken by the Hayabusa 2 explorer from 70 meters above Ryugu shows the asteroid's rocky surface. The shadow of the spacecraft is clearly visible near the center. (Photo courtesy of JAXA)

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