NASA has given the public its first high-resolution look at asteroid Bennu’s global surface. The details are revealed in a newly published global map of the asteroid, one that is currently the focus of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx space mission. As we’ve seen in previously shared images, the asteroid has a very rocky surface filled with large boulders, which was an unexpected complication for the OSIRIS-REx mission.
Bennu is an asteroid that is relatively close to Earth, making its closest approach to our planet every six years. The asteroid’s diameter is around 1,600ft, which makes it the right size for landing a spacecraft — it isn’t spinning too fast, which is a problem with asteroids that have diameters around 650ft.
NASA chose the asteroid for its OSIRIS-REx mission, not only for its approachability, but also due to its age. The space agency describes Bennu as a ‘fragment’ from the formation of our solar system, one that may even have bits of minerals older than the solar system. The well-preserved nature of this asteroid means that a successful sample collection will provide researchers with an uncontaminated bit of history.
Since the spacecraft’s arrival at the asteroid, NASA has delivered increasingly clear and high-resolution images of the space rock to the public, as well as multiple 4K renders of the asteroid. The space agency is back this week with a new look at Bennu — a high-resolution global map showing every part of its surface.
According to NASA, the new map is made from a series of images captured by the OSIRIS-REx mission from March 7 to April 19, 2019. Each pixel represents 2-inches of the asteroid’s surface and each image — all 2,155 of them — were captured at distances ranging from 1.9 miles to 3.1 miles. The public can view and download the full-resolution version of the global map on NASA’s website here.