NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured this shot of the earth and the moon (left) and the asteroid Bennu (right) on December…
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured this shot of the earth and the moon (left) and the asteroid Bennu (right) on December 1
9, 2018. At OSIRIS-REx, 71 million miles (114 million kilometers) from Earth and 43 kilometers from Bennu.
Credit: NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona / Lockheed Martin Space
Here’s something you don’t do “T sees every day: Earth, the moon and a potentially dangerous asteroid, all in the same frame.
NASA’s OSIRIS -Rex probes took the picture on December 19 when there were about 71 million miles (114 million miles) from their home plane, but much closer to the Bennu glacier.
“The spacecraft’s range to Bennu is only about 27 miles, so the asteroid seems to be a lot overexposed in the upper right corner “, wrote OSIRIS-REx team members in a picture description.” Right of the Hydra constellation is also visible at the bottom right of the image. “
The OSIRIS-REx mission of $ 800 million arrived at Bennu on 3 December and slipped into an orbit around 1650 feet wide meters) space rock four weeks later, setting several records in the process, no probe had ever circulated such a small celestial body before or circled a small object s o close. (OSIRIS-REx circles about 1 mile, or 1.6 km above Bennus stone-paved surface.) [OSIRIS-REx: NASA’s Asteroid Sample-Return Mission in Pictures]
The spacecraft will study Bennu from this perch for a while and then dip into the surface of the asteroid and take a sample in mid-2020. If everything goes according to plan, this Bennu material will come down to earth in a return capsule in September 2023.
Analysis of the returned sample should reveal a great deal about the early days of the solar system, as well as the role of colic asteroids as Bennu may have played to help life get started on our planet, NASA officials have said.
The assignment will also make other contributions. OSIRIS-REx data should help researchers better understand the forces that form the asteroids, which possibly improves the impact on the forecasts, mission group members have said. The spacecraft’s observations should also help scientists measure the resource potential of Bennu-like asteroids.
As noted above, Bennu is a potentially dangerous asteroid. But don’t panic – this designation applies to all decent-sized space stones that can come within 0.05 astronomical units (AU) of the Earth at any point in their paths. (An AU is Earth-Sun distance – about 93 million miles or 150 million km.)
And Bennu is not a very scary member of that class: there is only a 1-in-2,700 chance that the asteroid will strike the earth between 2175 and 2199, according to NASA researchers.
OSIRIS-REX is short for “Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.”
Mike Wall’s book on the search for extraterrestrial life, “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018, illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @ michaeldwall . Follow us @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Originally published on Space.com.