Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2023 September 21
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and animated gif.

Tagging Bennu
Image Credit: OSIRIS-REx, University of Arizona, NASA, Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

Explanation: The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft's arm reached out and touched asteroid 101955 Bennu on October 20, 2020, after a careful approach to the small, near-Earth asteroid's boulder-strewn surface. Dubbed a Touch-And-Go (TAG) sampling event, the 30 centimeter wide sampling head (TAGSAM) appears to crush some of the rocks in this close-up recorded by the spacecraft's SamCam. The image was snapped just after surface contact some 321 million kilometers from planet Earth. One second later, the spacecraft fired nitrogen gas from a bottle to blow a substantial amount of Bennu's regolith into the sampling head, collecting the loose surface material. And now, nearly three years later, on Sunday, September 24, that sample of asteroid Bennu is scheduled to arrive on planet Earth. The sample return capsule will be dropped off by the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft as it makes a close flyby of Earth. Twenty minutes after the drop-off, the spacecraft will fire its thrusters to divert past Earth and continue on to orbit near-Earth asteroid 99942 Apophis.

Tomorrow's picture: reflections of the cosmos

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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