Pictures give new image of asteroid

The first space probe sent to land on an asteroid and take samples delivered the goods, Japanese scientists reported in a journal article published Friday, saying the otter-shaped celestial body is the first found to be made of rubble.

While previously probed asteroids consisted of lumps of solid rock Itokawa appears to consist of loosely packed and porous rubble bound together by its own gravity, researchers led by Akira Fujiwara wrote in the American journal Science.

Uncertainty over whether the Japanese space probe Hayabusa was able to collect samples when it landed in November on the asteroid between Earth and Mars was put to rest with the article as Fujiwara hailed its mission for providing critical information for future space research, reports Monsters and Critics.

According to Register, Asteroid Itokawa - subject of a 2005 visit by Japan's Hayabusa probe - is nothing more than lump of rubble, new studies have shown.

The fact that the 535-metre asteroid is not solid as previously assumed has come as a bit of a surprise to those examining the Hayabusa data, New Scientist reports. Photographs reveal the body's surface "littered with boulders and gravel" which suggest it's comprised of the debris of an earlier asteroid collision.

Planetary scientist Erik Asphaug, of the University of California in Santa Cruz, said: "Five years ago, we thought that we would see a big chunk of monolithic rock, that something so small doesn't have the ability to hold onto any pieces. Everything we suspected about it turned out to be wrong."