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  • Imaging Systems to Explore Asteroid Composition Close-Up
Dec 2014
TANEGASHIMA, Japan, Dec. 3, 2014 — A probe launched today by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) carries a spectroscopy and imaging systems to examine the composition of a near-Earth asteroid.

Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa2 is on a mission to explore the origins of the solar system by studying the makeup of asteroid 1999 JU3. It is expected to reach the asteroid in 2018 and return to Earth with samples in 2020.

The probe will orbit the asteroid at a distance of about 20 km and carry out remote sensing observations while sending down three landers for direct measurements of the asteroid surface.

Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa2 above asteroid 1999 JU3.
An artist’s rendering of Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa2 above asteroid 1999 JU3. Courtesy of JAXA.

From orbit Hayabusa2 will assess the asteroid with two IR systems. The NIRS3 spectrometer will investigate mineral and water signatures, while the TIR thermal imager will study the temperature and thermal inertia of the asteroid.

One of the landers, MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout), incorporates a hyperspectral microscope for determining the composition of materials on the asteroid surface. Called MicrOmega, it will image the asteroid surface over 365 spectral bandwidths from 0.95 to 3.65 µm.

The project coordinator was IAS (Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale). The instrument incorporates acousto-optic tunable filters from Gooch & Housego and an IR detector from Sofradir. The Neptune detector features a 30-µm-pitch, 500 × 256-format HgCdTe array sensitive from shortwave to low mid-wave infrared.
MASCOT also carries a multispectral wide-field camera developed by the German Space Agency to provide geological images, among other instruments.

For more information, visit

hyperspectral imaging
Methods for identifying and mapping materials through spectroscopic remote sensing. Also called imaging spectroscopy; ultraspectral imaging.
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