Astronomy Picture of the Day

Places for OSIRIS-REx to Touch Asteroid Bennu
Video Credit: NASA, GSFC, U. Arizona, SVS, OSIRIS-REx

Explanation: Where is the best place to collect a surface sample from asteroid Bennu? Launched in 2016, NASA sent the robotic Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) to investigate the 500-meter-across asteroid 101955 Bennu. After mapping the near-Earth asteroid’s dark surface, OSIRIS-REx will next touch Bennu‘s surface in 2020 August to collect a surface sample. The featured 23-second time-lapse video shows four candidate locations for the touch, from which NASA chose just one earlier this month. NASA chose the Nightingale near Bennu’s northern hemisphere as the primary touch-down spot because of its relative flatness, lack of boulders, and apparent abundance of fine-grained sand. Location Osprey is the backup. NASA plans to return soil samples for Bennu to Earth in 2023 for a detailed analysis.

Tomorrow’s picture: open space

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