The first sample collected from material beneath the surface of an asteroid has landed on Earth.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 mission dropped off its sample collection capsule before moving on to the next part of its extended mission: visiting more asteroids.
The mission will continue sharing updates through its Twitter account, Hayabusa2@JAXA.
The capsule appeared like a small fireball streaking across the early morning sky of the Australian outback Sunday as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. The fireball was witnessed about 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday — 4:30 a.m. Australian time Sunday.
The mission team has used the capsule’s beacon to estimate its landing site and will search for it using a helicopter.
Hayabusa2 launched on December 3, 2014, and arrived at the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu in June 2018. The spacecraft collected one sample from the asteroid’s surface on February 22, 2019, then fired a copper “bullet” into the asteroid to create a 33-foot wide impact crater. A sample was collected from this crater on July 11, 2019.
Then, Hayabusa2 departed the asteroid in November 2019 and journeyed back to Earth.
Altogether, the mission’s science team believes 1 gram of material was collected, but they can’t be sure until they open it.
“One gram may sound small, but for us, one gram is huge,” said Masaki Fujimoto, deputy director general of the department of solar system sciences at JAXA, during an online briefing hosted by the Australian Science Media Centre. “It is enough to address our science questions.”
The agency’s first Hayabusa mission returned samples from the asteroid Itokawa to Earth in June 2010, but scientists said that due to failure of the spacecraft’s sampling device, they were only able to retrieve micrograms of dust from the asteroid.
“Ryugu is linked to the process that made our planet habitable,” Fujimoto said. “Earth was born dry; it didn’t begin with water. We think distant bodies like Ryugu came to the inner part of solar system, hit Earth, delivered water and made it habitable. That’s the fundamental question we’re after and we need samples to solve that.”
A fiery return
Since Hayabusa2 isn’t returning to Earth, it ejected the 35-pound sample return capsule as it swung by our planet at a distance of 136,701 miles. Then, the spacecraft changed its course to travel beyond Earth and move along with its extended mission.
JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, currently on the International Space Station, tweeted about seeing the spacecraft.
“Just spotted #hayabusa2 from #ISS! Unfortunately not bright enough for handheld camera, but enjoyed watching capsule! Thanks Houston & Tsukuba for pointing information!!!”
Imagery helped confirm separation of the capsule of from the spacecraft.
The Australian government granted JAXA permission to land its capsule in the Woomera Prohibited Area in South Australia. This remote area is used by Australia’s Department of Defence for testing.
The Japanese space agency previously used this site for the Hayabusa landing in 2010. Its partnership with Australia, the large, flat and open nature of the land and the fact that the team can quickly move the sample from Australia to Japan appealed to JAXA.
The large landing zone stretches 124 miles north to south and 62 miles east to west. The agency designated this large area to compensate for any uncertainty created by local wind speed when the capsule deploys its parachute.
Then, the team will try to locate the landing spot of the capsule as quickly as they can.
Once the capsule is located, a helicopter will take the sample team scientists to the landing site so they can collect it. The capsule will be placed in a protective box, and they will bring it back to headquarters, a temporary facility they built.
This clean room will allow the team to check the capsule and allow for degassing. It’s possible that the capsule collected gases from the asteroid — which are likely emitted by the sample the spacecraft collected. Any detection of gas in the gas sample container is a good sign they successfully collected a sample of material from the asteroid.
An official announcement about the amount of material collected from the asteroid will be made once the samples are returned to Japan and opened, Fujimoto said.
Hayabusa2 will fly by three asteroids between 2026 and 2031, eventually reaching the rapidly rotating micro-asteroid 1998 KY26 in July 2031 millions of miles from Earth. It will be the first flyby of this type of asteroid.
What’s in an asteroid sample?
Asteroids are like leftovers from the formation of our solar system, preserving information about the origins of planets as well as the vital elements that allow life to exist on Earth.
Ryugu is shaped like a diamond and is just over half a mile in diameter.
“I anticipate that the Hayabusa2 samples of asteroid Ryugu will be very similar to the meteorite that fell in Australia near Murchison, Victoria, more than 50 years ago,” said Trevor Ireland, professor in the Australian National University Research School of Earth Sciences and a member of the Hayabusa2 science team in Woomera, in a statement.
“The Murchison meteorite opened a window on the origin of organics on Earth because these rocks were found to contain simple amino acids as well as abundant water. We will examine whether Ryugu is a potential source of organic matter and water on Earth when the solar system was forming and whether these still remain intact on the asteroid.”
Ryugu is also a near-Earth asteroid that has an orbit that takes it between Earth and Mars. It will make a close approach to Earth in December 2076. Understanding these potentially hazardous asteroids could enable planning by space agencies for how to deflect them.
The NASA OSIRIS-REx mission recently collected a sample from another near-Earth asteroid, Bennu, that is similar in composition to Ryugu. In fact, based on early data from both missions, scientists working on both missions believe it’s possible these two asteroids once belonged to the same larger parent body before it was broken apart by an impact.
The Bennu sample will be returned to Earth by 2023.
Patrick Michel, director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris, is an investigator for both missions.
“It is really important to realize that no two asteroids are the same,” Michel told CNN in October. “Even if Bennu and Ryugu share some intriguing similarities and belong to the same category (primitive), they also have some very interesting differences. And these samples will occupy generations of researchers as a large amount will be kept for future generations that will benefit from the increase in technology and accuracy of the instruments used to analyze them.”
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Three more COVID-19 cases at GRT – KitchenerToday.com
Grand River Transit is confirming three more COVID cases.
All the affected employees are bus drivers.
Two of them last worked on January 15, while the third was last on the job on Jan. 11.
GRT points out all three are now self-isolating at home.
So far in Janaury, nine employees have tested positive for the virus.
Grand River Transit lists COVID-19 cases on its website for transparency purposes, but some details are not released due to privacy concerns.
Since the on-set of the pandemic, multiple safety precautions have been put in place to protect drivers and riders, including barriers and mandatory masks.
Microplastics could be eliminated from wastewater at source – E&T Magazine
A team of researchers from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Quebec, Canada, have developed an electrolytic process for treating wastewater, degrading microplastics at the source.
Microplastics are fragments of plastic less than 5mm long, often contained in toiletries or shedding from polyester clothing. They are present in virtually every corner of the Earth, and pose a particularly serious threat to marine ecosystems. High concentrations of microplastics can be carried into the environment in wastewater.
There are no established degradation methods to handle microplastics during wastewater treatment; although some techniques exist, these involve physical separation as a means of filtering the pollutant. These techniques do not degrade microplastics, which requires additional work to manage the separated fragments. So far, research into degradation of microplastics has been very limited.
The INRS researchers, led by water treatment expert Professor Patrick Drogui, decided to try degrading plastic particles through electrolytic oxidation – a process that does not require the addition of chemicals.
“Using electrodes, we generate hydroxyl radicals to attack microplastics,” Drogui said. “This process is environmentally friendly because it breaks them down into CO2 and water molecules, which are non-toxic to the ecosystem.”
Drogui and his colleagues experimented with different anode materials and other parameters such as current intensity, anode surface, electrolyte type, electrolyte concentration and reaction time. They found that the electrolytic oxidation could degrade more than 58 ± 21 per cent of microplastics in one hour. The microplastics appeared to degrade directly into gas rather than breaking into smaller particles.
Lab-based tests on water artificially contaminated with fragments of polystyrene showed a degradation efficiency as high as 89 per cent.
“This work demonstrated that [electrolytic oxidation] is a promising process for degradation of microplastics in water without production of any waste or by-products,” the researchers wrote in their Environmental Pollution report.
Drogui envisions this technology being used to treat microplastic-rich wastewater emerging from sources such as commercial laundries.
“When this commercial laundry water arrives at the wastewater treatment plant, it is mixed with large quantities of water, the pollutants are diluted and therefore more difficult to degrade,” he explained. “Conversely, by acting at the source, i.e. at the laundry, the concentration of microplastics is higher, thus more accessible for electrolytic degradation.”
Next, the researchers will move on to experimenting with degrading microplastics on water outside the artificial laboratory environment. Real commercial laundry water contains other materials that can affect the degradation process, such as carbonates and phosphates, which can trap radicals and limit degradation. If the technology is effective under these circumstances, the researchers plan to conduct a study to determine the cost of scaling up this treatment to implement in laundries.
Last week, researchers from the University of Barcelona published a study suggesting that encouraging a greater proliferation of seagrass meadows in the shallows of oceans could help trap, extract and carry marine plastic debris to shore.
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Eliminating microplastics in wastewater directly at the source – EurekAlert
A research team from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) has developed a process for the electrolytic treatment of wastewater that degrades microplastics at the source. The results of this research have been published in the Environmental Pollution journal.
Wastewater can carry high concentrations of microplastics into the environment. These small particles of less than 5 mm can come from our clothes, usually as microfibers. Professor Patrick Drogui, who led the study, points out there are currently no established degradation methods to handle this contaminant during wastewater treatment. Some techniques already exist, but they often involve physical separation as a means of filtering pollutants. These technologies do not degrade them, which requires additional work to manage the separated particles.
Therefore, the research team decided to degrade the particles by electrolytic oxidation, a process not requiring the addition of chemicals. “Using electrodes, we generate hydroxyl radicals (* OH) to attack microplastics. This process is environmentally friendly because it breaks them down into CO2 and water molecules, which are non-toxic to the ecosystem,” explains the researcher. The electrodes used in this process are more expensive than iron or steel electrodes, which degrade over time, but can be reused for several years.
An effective treatment
Professor Drogui envisions the use of this technology at the exit of commercial laundries, a potential source of microplastics release into the environment. “When this commercial laundry water arrives at the wastewater treatment plant, it is mixed with large quantities of water, the pollutants are diluted and therefore more difficult to degrade. Conversely, by acting at the source, i.e., at the laundry, the concentration of microplastics is higher (per litre of water), thus more accessible for electrolytic degradation,” explains the specialist in electrotechnology and water treatment.
Laboratory tests conducted on water artificially contaminated with polystyrene showed a degradation efficiency of 89%. The team plans to move on to experiments on real water. “Real water contains other materials that can affect the degradation process, such as carbonates and phosphates, which can trap radicals and reduce the performance of the oxidation process,” says Professor Drogui, scientific director of the Laboratory of Environmental Electrotechnologies and Oxidative Processes (LEEPO).
If the technology demonstrates its effectiveness on real commercial laundry water, the research group intends to conduct a study to determine the cost of treatment and the adaptation of the technology to treat larger quantities of wastewater. Within a few years, the technology could be implemented in laundry facilities.
About the study
The article “Treatment of microplastics in water by anodic oxidation: A case study for polystyrene”, by Marthe Kiendrebeogo, Mahmoodreza Karimiestahbanati, Ali Khosravanipour Mostafazadeh, Patrick Drogui and Rajeshwar Dayal Tyagi, was published in the Environmental Pollution journal. The team received financial support from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT), the CREATE-TEDGIEER program, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canadian Francophonie Scholarship Program (CFSP).
INRS is a university dedicated exclusively to graduate level research and training. Since its creation in 1969, INRS has played an active role in Quebec’s economic, social, and cultural development and is ranked first for research intensity in Quebec and in Canada. INRS is made up of four interdisciplinary research and training centres in Quebec City, Montreal, Laval, and Varennes, with expertise in strategic sectors: Eau Terre Environnement, Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications, Urbanisation Culture Société, and Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie. The INRS community includes more than 1,400 students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, and staff.
Service des communications de l’INRS
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