Looking at an Asteroid and Seeing a Black Hole

This animation simulates an X-ray outburst from a black hole MAXI J0637-043 that was detected by the REXIS instrument aboard the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, as the black hole moved through REXIS’s line of sight. The outburst is initially intense, but it gradually fades. The animation was constructed using data collected by the X-ray spectrometer while observations were being made of the space around asteroid Bennu on 11 November, 2019.
Image Credits: NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona / MIT / Harvard


This pile of rocks is on the asteroid Bennu. Here’ NASA description of the video—

The main science goal of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is to briefly touch down on near-Earth asteroid Bennu and collect a sample of fine-grained material, but the asteroid’s unexpected roughness could pose a hazard to the spacecraft. After a year of scoping out Bennu’s boulder-scattered surface, the OSIRIS-REx team has officially selected a sample collection site. The team concluded that a site designated “Nightingale” – located in a crater high in Bennu’s northern hemisphere – is the best spot for the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to snag its sample. Nightingale’s regolith – or rocky surface material – is dark, and images show that the crater is relatively smooth. Because it is located so far north, temperatures in the region are lower than elsewhere on the asteroid and the surface material is well-preserved. The crater also is thought to be relatively young, and the regolith is freshly exposed. This means that the site would likely allow for a pristine sample of the asteroid, giving the team insight into Bennu’s history. OSIRIS-REx will collect its sample of Bennu in mid-2020, and return it to Earth in late 2023.

Video Credit: NASA