The Asteroid 162173 Ryugu: A Cometary Origin

Hitoshi Miura, Eizo Nakamura, Tak Kunihiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The Japanese Hayabusa2 mission has revealed in detail the physical characteristics of the C-type asteroid 162173 Ryugu, in particular, its spinning top-shaped rubble-pile structure and potentially high organic content. A widely accepted formation scenario for Ryugu is catastrophic collision between larger asteroids and the subsequent slow gravitational accumulation of collisional debris. An alternative scenario is that Ryugu is an extinct comet that lost its icy components. Here, we numerically simulated the sublimation of water ice from a porous cometary nucleus until the refractory components, such as silicate rocks and organic matter, were left behind as evaporative residues. Such a process represents the transformation from a comet to an asteroid. The spin-up related to the shrinking nucleus, associated with water ice sublimation, was also calculated. The result of the calculation indicates that the cometary origin scenario can account for all the features of Ryugu discussed above. We conclude that organic-rich spinning top-shaped rubble-pile asteroids, such as Ryugu, are comet-asteroid transition objects or extinct comets.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL15
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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