Boulder size and shape distributions on asteroid Ryugu

Tatsuhiro Michikami, Chikatoshi Honda, Hideaki Miyamoto, Masatoshi Hirabayashi, Axel Hagermann, Terunori Irie, Keita Nomura, Carolyn M. Ernst, Masaki Kawamura, Kiichi Sugimoto, Eri Tatsumi, Tomokatsu Morota, Naru Hirata, Takaaki Noguchi, Yuichiro Cho, Shingo Kameda, Toru Kouyama, Yasuhiro Yokota, Rina Noguchi, Masahiko HayakawaNaoyuki Hirata, Rie Honda, Moe Matsuoka, Naoya Sakatani, Hidehiko Suzuki, Manabu Yamada, Kazuo Yoshioka, Hirotaka Sawada, Ryodo Hemmi, Hiroshi Kikuchi, Kazunori Ogawa, Sei ichiro Watanabe, Satoshi Tanaka, Makoto Yoshikawa, Yuichi Tsuda, Seiji Sugita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


In 2018, the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2, arrived at the small asteroid Ryugu. The surface of this C-type asteroid is covered with numerous boulders whose size and shape distributions are investigated in this study. Using a few hundred Optical Navigation Camera (ONC) images with a pixel scale of approximately 0.65 m, we focus on boulders greater than 5 m in diameter. Smaller boulders are also considered using five arbitrarily chosen ONC close-up images with pixel scales ranging from 0.7 to 6 cm. Across the entire surface area (~2.7 km2) of Ryugu, nearly 4400 boulders larger than 5 m were identified. Boulders appear to be uniformly distributed across the entire surface, with some slight differences in latitude and longitude. At ~50 km−2, the number density of boulders larger than 20 m is twice as large as on asteroid Itokawa (or Bennu). The apparent shapes of Ryugu's boulders resemble laboratory impact fragments, with larger boulders being more elongated. The ratio of the total volume of boulders larger than 5 m to the total excavated volume of craters larger than 20 m on Ryugu can be estimated to be ~94%, which is comparatively high. These observations strongly support the hypothesis that most boulders found on Ryugu resulted from the catastrophic disruption of Ryugu's larger parent body, as described in previous papers (Watanabe et al., 2019; Sugita et al., 2019). The cumulative size distribution of boulders larger than 5 m has a power-index of −2.65 ± 0.05, which is comparatively shallow compared with other asteroids visited by spacecraft. For boulders smaller than 4 m, the power-index is even shallower and ranges from −1.65 ± 0.05 to −2.01 ± 0.06. This particularly shallow power-index implies that some boulders are buried in Ryugu's regolith. Based on our observations, we suggest that boulders near the equator might have been buried by the migration of finer material and, as a result, the number density of boulders larger than 5 m in the equatorial region is lower than at higher latitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-191
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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