TopicsStereo image of asteroid Ryugu
by Dr Brian May

Brian May, the lead guitarist from the British rock band, Queen, has created a stereoscopic image of Ryugu from photographs captured with the ONC-T camera onboard Hayabusa2, so that the asteroid can be viewed in three dimensions. Brian May is an astronomer, with a doctoral degree in astrophysics from Imperial College London. He has a strong interest in planetary defense or space guard, which considers the potential threat to the Earth from meteorites. As part of this, May is a core member of "Asteroid Day", that began about three years ago to increase awareness of asteroids and action that can be taken to protect the Earth.

Held on June 30th each year, Asteroid Day draws attention to the risk of collisions from celestial bodies on the Earth. The day marks the anniversary of the Tunguska explosion in Russia that occurred on June 30, 1908 due to an incoming meteroid. Within Japan, the Japan Spaceguard Association and member of JAXA are also involved in Asteroid Day. In particular, the two asteroids explored by the Hayabusa and Hayabusa2 missions, Itokawa and Ryugu, both have orbits that approach the Earth, and data from these missions is also being used to better understand planetary defense.

Brian May has previously created images to sterescopically view celestial bodies, and approached the Hayabusa2 Project to propose a stereoscopic image of Ryugu. May corresponded with Dr Patrick Michel from the Côte d'Azur Observatory, France and member of the Hayabusa2 Project (the two scientists are seen in Figure 1). According to Michel, Brain May was very pleased when he received the images of asteroid Ryugu from the Hayabusa2 team as the stereo image could then be created very quickly.

  • Figure 1: Brian May (left) and Patrick Michel.
    Image credit: Brian May and Patrick Michel

With these images, Brian May created the stereoscopic image pair of Ryugu, revealing the asteroid in three dimensions for the first time (Figure 2). If you can manage the stereoscopic vision, you can see not only the whole form of Ryugu but also the irregularities of the surface.

  • [Enlargement]
    Figure 2: Stereoscopic images of asteroid Ryugu created by Brian May from images taken with the ONC-T, posted on Brian May's twitter account.
    Image credit: Brian May
    (Credit for the original image of Ryugu: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University.)

If it is hard to see in stereoscopic vision from Figure 2, how about Figure 3 below? This figure was created by Yoshiro Yamada, who superimposed the two images made by Brian May in red and blue. Using red-blue stereo glasses (right eye should be blue, the left should be red) the image should then appear in three-dimensions.

  • Figure 3: Image to be used with red/blue stereo glasses.
    Image credit: Yoshiro Yamada
    (Credit for the original stereoscopic image is Brian May and credit for the images of Ryugu is JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University.)

We also have a video from Brian May (Figure 4), demonstrating how to view asteriod Ryugu in three dimensions.

  • Figure 4: Video from Brian May
    Image and video credit: Brian May and Patrick Michel

We think that being able to see Ryugu in three dimensions makes the asteroid appear even more interesting. At the Hayabusa2 Project, we are about to conduct a variety of different analyses of Ryugu, including creating a three-dimensional model of the asteroid in the near future.

Acknowledgement: Dr Brian May agreed with the publication of pictures, images, and videos shown in this post. In addition, Dr Patrick Michel contacted and exchanged data with Brian May. The Hayabusa2 Project thanks both of you.

Hayabusa2 Project