NASA showed the asteroid, "overlapping" Land

Christopher Davidson
November 4, 2018

So credible is the threat, that two years NASA sent the OSIRIS-REx space probe to study the asteroid to see just how perilous it really is.

The tests will also mean scientists can better understand Bennu, and hopefully prevent a catastophe on a global scale - if the asteroid were to collide with the planet, it would release more energy than all the nuclear weapons to ever have existed. The space agency referred to the photo as a "super-resolution" view of the asteroid.

"Today, we celebrate the end of our Dawn mission - its incredible technical achievements, the vital science it gave us, and the entire team who enabled the spacecraft to make these discoveries", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

NASA's OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security Regolith Explorer) spacecraft was launched over two years ago, in September 2016 with the objective of exploring the Bennu asteroid. NASA used eight images to create an ultra-clear composite image.

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"The spacecraft was moving when doing these shots with PolyCam camera, and Benn turned 1.2 degrees for almost one minute, held between the first and last images". Although Bennu occupies barely 100 pixels in the detector, it is possible to identify some features on its surface, like large boulders.

OSIRIS-REx's target Bennu asteroid is a carbon-rich asteroid that measures more than 1600 feet across and weighs over 60 million ton. It carries a set of five scientific instruments that will be used to explore the asteroid. "The fact that the Japanese mission has reached its target a little ahead of us turns out to be extremely interesting, as we can now interpret our results and compare to the results obtained by another mission nearly on real time", explains Julia de León, a member of the mission's science team from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, in a release.

"In December 2018, we will start to obtain images with MapCam, another of the cameras on the mission, using color filters", said researcher Javier Licandro.

As part of its mission, the ORISIS-REx probe will also take a sample of the Doomsday Rock and bring it back to Earth. Back to earth the device is scheduled for 2023. "This will allow us to generate color maps and to study the geographical distribution of different materials on Bennu, including silicates altered by the presence of liquid water".

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