Subaru Telescope photographed Hayabusa spacecraft
June 13, 2010
Before its re-entry to the earth after 6 billion kilometers (3.75 billion miles) round trip, Hayabusa demonstrated its namesake in the view of Subaru Telescope. Launched in 2003 from the southern island of Japan, Hayabusa the Falcon, went all the way to an asteroid Itokawa, landed on it, scooped up its soil, and flew back. Overcame with tremendous difficulties during this journey lasted 4 years longer than originally planned, the project team is now on its final "leg" of recovering the capsule ejected from Hayabusa upon re-entry. This capsule might contain the speckle of dust from Itokawa, which enables scientists to uncover the history of the solar system.
During the busy time preparing the observations, Doctor Masafumi Yagi and his team managed to maneuver the telescope just in time to catch Hayabusa before it disappeared down south in the twilight sky. At that time, Hayabusa was a little less than half way between Moon and Earth. Five seconds exposures, each spaced by 35 - 50 seconds in the V filter with Suprime Cam, it showed up in clear trace at the position expected to be. Brightness is estimated to be only 21 magnitudes. At this level, one can see a background galaxy clearly.
We are waiting to hear more from the project team at ISAS/JAXA. In the meantime, congratulations to all who are involved in this unprecedented endeavor.
- Hayabusa at ISAS(Institute of Space and Astronautical Science)/JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)
- Hayabusa special
- Hayabusa special
Figure 1: The composite image from 11 images, each with 5 sec exposure, spaced by 35-50 sec. V magnitude of Hayabusa is estimated to be 21 mag. (Click image to enlarge.)
Figure 2: Animation from the same image set. Please be aware the initial download may require longer time.