Almost a month after it reached its vacation spot, circling the asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has snapped an unbelievable picture of the Earth.
The picture was snapped days earlier than OSIRIS-REx went into orbit round Bennu on New 12 months’s Eve. The tiny asteroid — barely one-third of a mile throughout — seems as an enormous vibrant blob within the long-exposure photograph launched final week.
Almost 70 million miles away, Earth seems as a white dot, with the moon a good smaller dot however nonetheless clearly seen.
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OSIRIS-REx is the primary spacecraft to orbit such a small celestial physique, and from such a detailed distance — a few mile out. Subsequent yr, Osiris-Rex will try to assemble some samples from the carbon-rich asteroid, for return to Earth in 2023.
Launched from Florida in 2016, OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reached Bennu on Dec. three after touring greater than 1 billion miles by way of area. The spacecraft will spend virtually a yr surveying the area rock from orbit.
Every week after it landed, OSIRIS-REx recognized water locked contained in the asteroid’s clay, NASA introduced. The spacecraft’s two spectrometers revealed the presence of “hydroxyls,” that are molecules containing oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded collectively.
“Whereas Bennu itself is simply too small to have ever hosted liquid water, the discovering does point out that liquid water was current at a while on Bennu’s mum or dad physique, a a lot bigger asteroid,” NASA mentioned within the assertion.
The asteroid might present solutions to the origin of our photo voltaic system, based on the area company.
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The probe is scheduled to briefly contact the asteroid with a robotic arm in July 2020 and retrieve a pattern that can be returned to Earth in September 2023.
The Related Press and Fox Information’ James Rogers contributed to this report.
Comply with Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia