About a month ahead of its arrival at Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has beamed back a stunning photo of the near-Earth asteroid.
Unveiled by the space agency just before Halloween, the image offers a “super-resolution” view of Bennu — a 1,640-foot-wide asteroid that is floating through space some 54 million miles away from our planet.
According to NASA, this latest photo of asteroid Bennu was created using eight different snapshots captured by the probe’s PolyCam instrument on October 29.
“The team used a super-resolution algorithm to combine the eight images and produce a higher resolution view of the asteroid. Bennu occupies about 100 pixels and is oriented with its north pole at the top of the image,” NASA officials explained in the photo release.
As Space points out, the new snapshot highlights the diamond shape of the space rock, underlining the similarities between Bennu and asteroid Ryugu — an even bigger space rock located farther away from Earth and which is currently being studied by Japan’s Hayabusa-2 mission, per the Inquisitr.
Short for Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer, OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission and will be conducting research at Bennu for the next two years. The spacecraft is scheduled to rendezvous with the asteroid on December 3 and is tasked with bringing back regolith samples — or the layer of rock-strewn dust covering the asteroid, the Inquisitr previously reported.
At the time the new images were taken, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was about 205 miles (330 kilometers) away from Bennu and was engaged in its third Asteroid Approach Maneuver (AAM-3), NASA noted in a separate news release.
“The spacecraft was moving as it captured the images with the PolyCam camera, and Bennu rotated 1.2 degrees during the nearly one minute that elapsed between the first and the last snapshot,” space agency officials said in a statement.
As the Inquisitr recently reported, these asteroid approach maneuvers are intended to slow down the spacecraft and adjust its trajectory as OSIRIS-REx makes its way toward Bennu. The two previous maneuvers — AAM-1 and AAM-2 — were performed on October 1 and October 15, respectively.
During this third procedure, the spacecraft fired its trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) thrusters to break two times and reduce its velocity.
“I used the TCM thrusters for this two-part braking burn designed to slow my speed relative to Bennu from about 11.7 mph (5.2 m/sec) to 0.24 mph (0.11 m/sec),” the OSIRIS-REx team tweeted on October 29.
The initial results are in, and my third Asteroid Approach Maneuver executed as expected! ???????????? I used the TCM thrusters for this two-part braking burn designed to slow my speed relative to Bennu from about 11.7 mph (5.2 m/sec) to 0.24 mph (0.11 m/sec): https://t.co/tsf9pn53uZ pic.twitter.com/X84WyzsmvU— NASA's OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) October 29, 2018
The spacecraft will be conducting one more asteroid approach maneuver on November 12. This final procedure will enable OSIRIS-REx to position itself 12 miles (20 kilometers) from Bennu when the probe finally reaches the asteroid next month.