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Check out Hayabusa 2 mission’s asteroid close-ups

Ryugu close-up
This image of the asteroid Ryugo was captured by the Hayabusa 2 probe’s ONC-T camera at an altitude of about 64 meters (210 feet). Image was taken on Sept. 21. A large boulder is at bottom left, along with a scale bar indicating the length of 1 meter. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University, AIST)

The scientists and engineers behind Japan’s Hayabusa 2 mission made history last week when the mission’s mothership dropped two mini-rovers onto the surface of the asteroid Ryugu, 180 million miles from Earth, but they’re not resting on their laurels.

The first rovers to hop around an asteroid’s surface have continued to send back pictures of their travels — and so has the main spacecraft, which is keeping watch dozens of miles above them.

One of the pictures shows a high-resolution view of Ryugu’s surface from above, highlighted by a big boulder’s sharp shadow. The image was captured by the main spacecraft’s telescopic optical navigation camera, or ONC-T, as it closed in on Ryugu for the rover drop on Sept. 21.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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