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The Japan-South Korea team observed an asteroid using a Hokkaido telescope

A Japanese and South Korean research team will begin observing Ryugu asteroids next fall using a special telescope in Hokkaido, northern Japan, hoping to gain an understanding of how asteroids are formed, a member said Monday.

The Japanese Hayabusa2 Investigation recently completed its mission to collect samples from asteroids, measuring about 900 meters in diameter and located about 250 million kilometers from Earth, and is scheduled to return around the end of 2020.

"We want to solve the mystery where Hayabusa2 cannot fully explore," said Masateru Ishiguro, a Seoul National University professor who will lead the group and analyze data collected together with South Korean students.

The team aims to find out if there are sand particles in Ryugu using the Hokkaido University Pirka Telescope in the city of Nayoro, which is able to detect small particles as small as one thousandth of a millimeter.

A rocky asteroid, which orbits around the Sun near Earth and Mars, has been far from Earth for the past few years but will approach again at the end of next year. The asteroid will also appear the brightest since it was discovered in 1999.

(Photo courtesy of JAXA)

Observations are scheduled to be made between October 2020 and the first half of 2021.

Hiroshima University and Hyogo University in western Japan are considering taking part in the project through their respective observatories, while Ishiguro also asked the Brazilian observatory to join.

Hayabusa2 reached Ryugu in June last year after its launch in December 2014. It has touched Ryugu twice, successfully collecting the first subsurface asteroid samples after creating an artificial crater by firing copper projectiles at the asteroid.

Related Coverage:

Hayabusa2 leaves asteroids, can drop samples from the same distance as the Moon

Robot explorer is released towards the asteroid in the last mission of Hayabusa2

Hayabusa2 successfully collected the first subsurface sample: JAXA

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