If you comply with space news at all, you may perhaps have heard of ‘Bennu’ – the close to-Earth asteroid that has a slim (but larger than most) likelihood of colliding with our planet sometime almost 200 years from now. The asteroid is notable for a lot of motives, such as the current discovery that it’s really also “active,” which signifies that it’s been spewing dust and gravel into the surrounding space as it continuous along its path.
That discovery is what prompted NASA to lessen the distance at which its OSIRIS-REx probe orbits the spacefaring rock. The probe arrived at Bennu late final year to observe the asteroid right after a choice method determined which of the identified close to-Earth ones would be the greatest candidate for a analysis mission.
NASA’s probe is now just more than 3,000 feet above the centre mass of Bennu, which is closer than your typical military attack helicopters fly at cruising distance above Earth, as NASA helpfully points out in the illustrative graphic beneath.
The mission refers to this orbit as the ‘Orbital B’ phase, and it’s a record not just for Bennu, but also stands as the closes a spacecraft has ever orbited any extraterrestrial physique anyplace in the solar technique. It’ll stay in this orbit till mid-August, and it’ll concentrate the subsequent couple of weeks on photographing the asteroid’s surface consistently to study the dust and gravel ejection described above.