NASA’s $800 million OSIRIS-REx mission launched to house in September 2016 with a easy, albeit formidable, goal: journey to a distant asteroid and convey again a pattern of it. The spacecraft is now almost house, and scientists noticed the it for the primary time final week because it made its return.
The asteroid in query is Bennu, a rubble-pile asteroid that scientists imagine broke off a bigger asteroid between 700 million and a pair of billion years in the past, according to NASA. Bennu averages an orbit of about 105 million miles from the Solar, and completes its orbit each 1.2 years. The asteroid was about 200 million miles (322 million kilometers) away when OSIRIS-REx received there to retrieve a bit of it.
OSIRIS-REx spent December 2018 to Might 2021 observing Bennu, imaging it and taking measurements of its spin, form, and make-up. Bennu’s rocky floor comprises hints as to how the photo voltaic system fashioned, however observations of the item solely achieve this a lot. Therefore: the pattern return challenge.
Moreover being caught on candid digital camera, mission planners modified its course final week to accurately purpose OSIRIS-REx in the direction of the pattern drop-off web site on Earth. The spacecraft’s velocity was tweaked by about 0.5 miles per hour (lower than 1 kilometer per hour) with a purpose to guarantee OSIRIS-REx would truly arrive on Earth, as a substitute of crusing previous our pale blue dot.
The spacecraft picked up the Bennu sample in 2020; it left the asteroid for its return trip in April 2021. When the spacecraft was noticed on September 16, by the European House Company’s Optical Floor Station (OGS) telescope, it was 2.9 million miles (4.66 million km) from Earth. The picture is definitely a mix of 90 36-second exposures.
The ESA telescope, which is on the island of Tenerife, was constructed to identify house particles however now additionally contributes to astronomical surveys and observes near-Earth asteroids, which will be hazardous objects once they make close to passes of Earth.
Bennu is itself a kind of doubtlessly hazardous asteroids (PHAs), as a result of it has an opportunity of colliding with Earth in 161 years. Nevertheless, those odds are extremely low. No, the largest impression Bennu will seemingly have on Earth will come within the type of the OSIRIS-REx samples, and no matter they’ll inform us concerning the formation of the universe.