Asteroid 162173 Ryugu is a diamond-shaped space rock visited by the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2, which took a sample from the asteroid’s surface to return to Earth. This material will help scientists better understand the origins of the solar system and, possibly, life on our planet.
Ryugu was discovered in 1999 by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project, a collaborative, U.S.-based project to catalogue and track space rocks. The Japanese space agency, JAXA, estimates the asteroid to be about 2,952 feet (900 meters) in diameter (other scientists have calculated the asteroid to be slightly smaller). Ryugu is orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars and occasionally crosses Earth’s orbit, which means the space rock is classified as “potentially hazardous,” though the body poses no imminent danger to our world. As it soars through space, the asteroid spins around like a top, rotating every 7.6 hours, according to JAXA.