Rehearsing a Landing on an Asteroid

On 11 August, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft conducted a practice approach to the asteroid Bennu that brought it to a point approximately 40 m (~130 ft) above the surface. It then performed a back-away burn. These images used to make this video were captured over a 13.5-minute period. The first was taken at an altitude of about 128 m. The last was taken at around 44 m. OSIRIS-REx will make landings on Bennu and collect sample to be returned to Earth.

Video Credit: NASA

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

Bennu’s Topography

This three-dimensional view of near Earth asteroid Bennu was created by the Canadian Space Agency’s Laser Altimeter aboard NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The colors represent the distance from the center of Bennu: dark blue areas lie about 60 meters below the peaks indicated in red. Because some parts of the asteroid have not yet been measured, there are gaps in the image.

Credits: NASA / University of Arizona / CSA /York / MDA

Bennu Up Close

This wide shot and pair of close-ups was taken by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. They show a region in asteroid Bennu’s northern hemisphere. The wide-angle image (left) covers a 180 m wide area filled with rocks, including some large boulders, and a “pond” of regolith that is mostly devoid of large rocks. The two close ups show details of areas in the wide image, specifically a 15 m boulder (top) and the regolith pond (bottom). The close up frames are 31 m) across. The boulder depicted is about the same size as a humpback whale.

Image Credit: NASA

New Views of Bennu

This mosaic image above was stitched together using 12 PolyCam images collected on 2 December by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft while it was about 24 km from Bennu. The animation below show a preliminary shape model of the asteroid created image data taken during the spacecraft’s approach to Bennu during November. This 3D model shows features on Bennu as small as 6 m.

Image Credits: NASA

Approaching Bennu

This series of images shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s view of Bennu during its final approach to the asteroid. They were taken beginning in mid August using the spacecraft’s PolyCam camera. The last images were taken on 27 November when the spacecraft was about 65 km away from the asteroid. During the approach, the spacecraft’s velocity with respect to Bennu slowed from around 491 m/s to about 0.04 m/s, which resulted in the seemingly slower approach speed at the end of the video.

Video Credit: NASA

Bennu 360

This set of images shows one full revolution of the asteroid Bennu. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft acquired an image for every 10 degrees during the asteroid’s 4 hour and 11 minute rotation from a range of just under 200 km last Friday. Bennu is approximately 200 pixels wide in the images.

Image Credits: NASA