TOPICSHere comes MicrOmega at Sagamihara!

A long-term dream will come true when the sample from the volatile-rich carbonaceous asteroid Ryugu is returned by Hayabusa2. MicrOmega - an infrared hyperspectral microscope developed by Institut d'Astrophysique Spaciale (IAS) that will be used for the initial analysis of the sample - has just arrived at the Extraterrestrial Sample Curation Center in ISAS, JAXA Sagamihara Campus on 3 July 2020!

MicrOmega and its accessories just arrived at the Extraterrestrial Sample Curation Center in ISAS, JAXA Sagamihara Campus. (©JAXA)

MicrOmega is a French-built powerful but light-weight instrument that has been used onboard landers for multiple planetary missions, such as Fobos-Grunt, Hayabusa2-MASCOT, and ExoMars. MicrOmega has a resolution of 25 micrometers per pixel, allowing the instrument to observe fine texture and composition, including hydrous and anhydrous minerals and organics. It can also characterise the texture and composition of the Hayabusa2 return sample, which may provide hints for the detailed analyses to be performed by the Hayabusa2 Initial Analysis teams and other researchers. The results will be catalogued for reference by scientists who will apply for the international announcement of opportunity.

The manufacturing of MicrOmega for curation has just been completed, after almost a half-year delay due to the recent coronavirus COVID-2019 pandemic. The instrument can still not be brought into Japan by our French colleagues, and even a two-week self-quarantine is needed for returning Japanese citizens. Fortunately, the instrument was flown to Japan thanks to somebody returning from their position at the JAXA office in Paris!

In the Curation Center, MicrOmega, as well as the other instruments, will be checked, trained and calibrated to be ready for the up-coming sample treatment and analysis when the sample is returned by Hayabusa2 late this year.

Tatsuaki Okada
(Hayabusa2 Project & Astromaterials Science Research Group)