Strange phenomenon on the surface of a Dragon Palace asteroid: ‘roasted red’ as it approaches the sun

At the end of February 2019, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) landed the Osprey 2 probe on the surface of the Dragon Palace asteroid to collect samples before ejeclate back into orbit. On February 21, 2019, when Osprey 2 landed on the surface of the Dragon Palace asteroid, it successfully captured a high-resolution image of the asteroid’s surface with a resolution of up to 1 mm per pixel.

Strange phenomenon on the surface of a Dragon Palace asteroid: 'roasted red' as it approaches the sun

These images allow us to take a closer look at the physical interference reactions on the surface of the Dragon Palace asteroid to the probe’s landing, including sampling projectile collisions and spacecraft thruster gas ejections.

‘We think that if the Dragon Palace asteroid experiences a brief orbital drift near the sun, which will produce higher surface temperatures, the event of redness on the asteroid’s surface in a short period of time could explain,’ the researchers said.

These images allow us to take a closer look at the physical interference reactions on the surface of the Dragon Palace asteroid to the probe’s landing, including sampling projectile collisions and spacecraft thruster gas ejections.

When Osprey 2 lifted off again from the asteroid’s surface, the camera captured some strange phenomena — the probe left a dark spot on the asteroid’s surface. Now these strange spots could help astronomers solve the mystery of the asteroid’s color. The researchers say there are two different types of matter on the surface of the Dragon Palace asteroid, each of which has different colors, blue matter in the equatorial ridge and polar region, and red matter in the mid-latitudes. However, the cause of these spectral changes is not clear.

But when Osprey 2 returned to orbit, the layer of material damaged by its landing appeared to be consistent with the red substance, not the blue substance. In the course of studying the asteroid, the distribution of blue and red matter took on some characteristics, with larger rocks blue, and the smaller surrounding matter, earth and gravel, red, and blue-filled craters forming later than red-filled craters, as if the impact of a meteorite had penetrated the red surface, exposing the blue matter layer below.

All this suggests that the rock formations on the asteroid’s surface were originally blue and gradually turned red with certain processes. At the same time, the study showed that it took longer to turn the gravel red than large rocks that were damaged by collisions or heated at high temperatures.

Scientists know that asteroids, under the influence of space weathering and solar radiation, will regularly turn red, which can change over a long period of time, but compared with solar radiation, space weathering usually only causes the asteroid surface a few nanometers of thickness red, while the Dragon Palace asteroid surface red matter layer thickness of about a few tens of centimeters.

If the Dragon Palace asteroid experiences a brief orbital drift near the sun, which will produce higher surface temperatures, then the short-term redness of the asteroid’s surface can be explained by the redness of most large craters on the surface of the Dragon Palace asteroid, indicating that the asteroid’s red tone gradually increased after it left the asteroid belt and experienced more frequent meteorite collisions. The surface structure suggests that the asteroid is very young, about 9 million years old. Its life begins in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, where collisions with other objects occur much more frequently than those that later enter near-Earth orbit.

If the Dragon Palace asteroid were still in the asteroid belt, its surface would have turned red 300,000 years ago. Astronomers can use a number of ways to narrow the range by simulating the time of the Dragon Palace asteroid’s orbit and guess when it will be close to the sun’s orbit. But samples taken during the Osprey 2 landing on the asteroid’s surface are more instructive.

It is predictable that samples taken from the surface of the Dragon Palace asteroid contain altered and unaltered substances, and that the asteroid surface records “solar heating events”. The study has now been published in the journal Science.