A STIRLING scientist was in Cologne with an international team to confirm the arrival of a lander 300million kilometers from Earth this month.

Dr Axel Hagermann, associate professor in biological and environmental sciences at the University of Stirling, joined colleagues at the German Aerospace Centre in Cologne to confirm the arrival of the lander, Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT), on primitive asteroid Ryugu.

The arrival of the asteroid lander, a French-German project, represents a significant landmark in the Japanese-led mission, which is aiming to shed new light on the origin and evolution of the solar system.

As the only UK-based scientist on the Hayabusa2 mission, Dr Hagermann is co-investigator on the thermal infrared imager, which will study the temperature and thermal inertia of the asteroid.

He will support data analysis by recreating the thermal conditions of the asteroid surface in the Planetary Ices Laboratory at Stirling.

The lander launched in December 2014 on a mother craft, which arrived at Ryugu, discovered in 1999, in June and has mostly been observing the asteroid from a distance of 20km before deploying two Japanese rovers in September and the MASCOT lander on October 3.

Dr Hagermann said: “While the mother spacecraft will map the entire asteroid and take a sample, MASCOT was designed to take close-up pictures of the surface of the asteroid and to measure thermal properties of the surface at close range.

“Ultimately, we hope the Hayabusa2 mission will tell us how the asteroid came about, and over what period of time, and provide information on the history of the solar system, particularly relating to water.”

The spacecraft is expected to return home with samples by the end of 2020.