After more than two years in orbit around asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is ready to come home. It’s bringing with it a pristine sample of space rocks that geologists here on Earth are eager to study up close. The sample will arrive in September 2023, but we won’t have to wait nearly that long for new data from OSIRIS-REx. Last week, the probe carried out one final flyby of Bennu, in an effort to photograph the sample collection site. The photographs are being downlinked now, and should be here by midweek.
If you’ve been following the OSIRIS-REx mission, you probably already know why scientists are keen to see these photographs, but if you haven’t, hold on to your hats – it’s a wild story.
Continue reading “OSIRIS-REx Did One Last Close Flyby of Asteroid Bennu. It’s Almost Time to Come Home”
The OSIRIS-REx team decided to delay the spacecraft’s departure from asteroid Bennu for two months. The departure window opens in March 2021, and the original plan had OSIRIS-REx setting course for Earth on March 3, to bring home the asteroid samples it collected last October.
Now, a revised timeline has the spacecraft leaving Bennu on May 10, 2021. This won’t affect the target delivery data of September of 2023, but it will allow for more observations of the asteroid.
Continue reading “OSIRIS-REx is Heading for Home in May”
The asteroid belt is a chaotic place. Things smash into each other, get thrown into completely different orbital planes, and are occasionally visited by small electronic spacecraft launched by humans. All three things seem to have happened to the asteroid Bennu, which is currently being orbited by OSIRIS-REx, a mission launched by NASA in 2016.
The most recently released results from the mission show that Bennu might have small pieces of Vesta on it. Given that Vesta is one of the biggest asteroid belt objects and Bennu is a near Earth asteroid millions of kilometers away from the asteroid belt, this hints at a pretty exciting past history for the asteroid currently being visited by NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission.
Continue reading “Asteroid Bennu has little pieces of Vesta on it”
As soon as the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu in December 2018, there was a big surprise. Scientists expected Bennu’s surface would consist of fine-grained material like a sandy beach. But take a look at that surface: Bennu is a jumbled mess.
Here’s a closer view:
Continue reading “Bennu is Constantly Getting Sandblasted by Tiny Meteoroids”
Late last summer, NASA and the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (a.k.a WGPSN) approved the naming convention for features on Bennu, the asteroid currently being orbited and studied by the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft. The naming theme chosen was “birds and bird-like creatures in mythology.”
The first twelve features thusly named have now been announced. But more importantly, some of these features will be instrumental in helping to guide OSIRIS-REx to the surface of the asteroid later this year.
Continue reading “Asteroid Bennu is Getting Some Official Names for its Surface Features”
While the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was orbiting asteroid Bennu,
one of the instruments on board happened to catch a glimpse of a black hole ‘out
of the corner of its eye,’ so to speak.
While intently focusing on the asteroid, the Regolith X-Ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS) happened to catch the X-rays from a newly flaring stellar mass black hole. While the flare occurred 30 thousand light years away, the flash in distant space was visible just off the limb of asteroid Bennu, in the edge of the instrument’s field of view.
Continue reading “Even Though it Was Observing an Asteroid, OSIRIS-REx Accidentally Spotted a Black Hole”
NASA has chosen the sampling site for its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. After narrowing it down to four potential sites and examining them in detail, they’ve settled on one location. Their choice? Nightingale.
Continue reading “The Site Has Been Chosen! Here’s Where OSIRIS-REx is Going To Take a Sample from Bennu”
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu in December 2018, and just one week later, it discovered something unusual about Bennu: the asteroid was ejecting particles into space.
The spacecraft’s navigation camera first spotted the particles, but scientists initially thought they were just stars in the background. After closer scrutiny, the OSIRIS-REx team realized they were particles of rock, and were concerned that they might pose a hazard.
Continue reading “Why Are Particles Getting Ejected Off of Asteroid Bennu?”
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx arrived at asteroid Bennu in December 2018. During the past year, it’s been imaging the surface of the asteroid extensively, looking for a spot to take a sample from. Though the spacecraft has multiple science objectives, and a suite of instruments to meet them, the sample return is the key objective.
Now, NASA has narrowed the choice down to four potential sampling locations on the surface of the asteroid.
Continue reading “It’s Time to Decide. Where Should OSIRIS-REx Take a Sample from Bennu?”
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has been at asteroid Bennu since Dec. 3rd, 2018. On that day, it went from travelling to the asteroid to travelling around it. Since then it’s been surveying and mapping Bennu.
Continue reading “This is the Closest OSIRIS-REx has Gotten to Bennu. Just 680 Meters Above the Asteroid”