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Marvel at NASA photo taken during the closest ever orbit of an asteroid

By Humza · 9 replies
Jun 19, 2019
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  1. Back in September 2016, NASA launched its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on a seven-year mission to collect samples from an asteroid named Bennu and make its way back home by 2023.

    Recently, the spacecraft entered a new phase of the mission, known as Orbital B, in which it was placed in orbit just 680 meters (2,231 feet) above the asteroid surface. That distance is the closest yet of a spacecraft orbiting around a planetary body. The previous record of approximately 1.3 kilometers (0.8 miles) was also set by OSIRIX-REx in December last year.

    The image of the 78 billion-kilogram asteroid "was taken from a distance of 0.4 miles (690 m) above the asteroid’s surface by NavCam 1, one of three navigation cameras that comprise the spacecraft’s TAGCAMS (the Touch-and-Go Camera System) suite. At this distance, details as small as 1.6 ft (0.5 m) across can be resolved in the center of the image."

    The close-up and highly detailed image of Bennu shows half of the rock's body lit by sunlight and the other in complete darkness with the asteroid's largest boulder protruding from its southern hemisphere. Also makes for a cool wallpaper.

    Previous findings of the mission reported Bennu being full of hydrated minerals, which means lots of water in its molecular structure and a surface covered in boulders and caves. According to NASA, the spacecraft will remain in its current orbit until the second week of August, after which it will transition to a higher Orbital C for additional particle observations.

    The OSIRIX-REx team will use the data collected from Orbital B to assess the safety and likelihood of collecting a sample from each potential site on the asteroid Bennu, an event scheduled to take place in the summer of 2020, with the spacecraft delivering its sample to Earth by September 2023.

    Thumbnail Credits: University of Arizona, Main Image: NASA

    Permalink to story.

  2. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 2,198   +1,625

    Looks like it could use a dusting ;P
    Andromadus and TomSEA like this.
  3. mgwerner

    mgwerner TS Booster Posts: 69   +45

    Not the closest, Japan's Hayabusa2 snapped a photo as it left the surface after taking a sample, from a distance of a few meters, on 21 FEB 2019.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2019
    max0x7ba likes this.
  4. johnofo

    johnofo TS Rookie

    Closest taken from orbit, taking a picture during take off or landing wouldn't count
    ghostf1re and mbrowne5061 like this.
  5. ckm88

    ckm88 TS Addict Posts: 166   +119

    Simply amazing. Beautiful.
    Andromadus likes this.
  6. mgwerner

    mgwerner TS Booster Posts: 69   +45

    Prior to impact the spacecraft was in low orbit for a couple of weeks, then it descended to the surface and bounced off with a sample. Various parts of the flight profile can be considered "orbit." Most of which were much closer than the 650 meters or so from the above photo.
  7. Morris Minor

    Morris Minor TS Addict Posts: 109   +54

    Yeah I don't think they are saying the picture is the closest, its the orbital distance of the asteroid that's the closest.
  8. neeyik

    neeyik TS Addict Posts: 82   +63

    NASA say this specifically:

    "This second orbital phase, called Orbital B, broke the record for the closest distance a spacecraft has orbited a body in the Solar System. The spacecraft is now in a bound, circular orbit 0.4 miles (680 m) from the asteroid’s surface."

    Hayabusa2 didn't orbit asteroid Ryugu - it orbited the Sun, alongside the same orbital path as the asteroid. Go here to see an animation of that particular orbit.
  9. Markoni35

    Markoni35 TS Booster Posts: 196   +93

    If they could only make equally as clear photos of landing sites on the Moon.
  10. colemar

    colemar TS Rookie

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