NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 11 March 2023: Asteroid Bennu in 3D

NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a stunning 3D anaglyph of the asteroid Bennu.

| Updated on: Mar 11 2023, 14:39 IST
Best NASA Astronomy Pictures of the Week: Large Magellanic Cloud, Dimorphos Asteroid and more
Venus and Jupiter
1/5 Venus-Jupiter Conjunction (March 6) - It is a stunning picture of Planetary Conjunction involving Jupiter and Venus as it took over the skies back in 2012. It was captured in Szubin, Poland, by creating an illusion of both planets being balanced on two hands. (NASA/Marek Nikodem)
Large Magellanic Cloud
2/5 Large Magellanic Cloud (March 7) - The picture shows the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is located about 180,000 light-years away towards the constellation Dorado. According to NASA, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) spans about 15000 light-years. LMC is also the site of the brightest and closest supernova observed in recent times.  (NASA/Yuri Beletsky(TWAN))
Light pollution
3/5 Light Pollution (March 8) - The picture shows artificial brightness present in the night sky, which makes observing celestial objects such as stars, planets and others, increasingly difficult. Parts of the US and Western Europe have artificial night sky glow which is nearly 10 times the natural light in the night sky.  (NASA/JPSS Satellites/David J. Lorenz)
Dimorphos asteroid
4/5 Dimorphos Asteroid (March 9) - It is a thrilling picture of the Dimorphos asteroid, captured just 3 seconds before the collision. It was a $330 million venture which proved to be a success as the target asteroid named Dimorphos deflected off its path. While this asteroid in no way threatened Earth, this was an experiment to gain greater knowledge as to what happens when a craft crashes against a space rock.  (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/DART)
Orion Nebula
5/5 Orion and Running Man Nebulae (March 10) - stellar snapshot of the Orion Nebula and the Running Man Nebula. Also known as M42, the Orion Nebula is located about 1500 light-years away and spans about 40 light-years across. Another Nebula can be seen embedded in this region, known as the Running Man Nebula, which is the northmost part of the asterism known as Orion’s Sword.  (NASA/Abraham Jones)
Asteroid Bennu
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In today’s NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day, the famous asteroid Bennu gets a 3D makeover. (NASA/Patrick Vantuyne)

Space is vast and terrifying, but at the same time, it is deeply intriguing and mysterious. Our fascination with space and understanding the origin of the solar system has led scientists to one of its biggest celestial nemeses. Nothing exemplifies this relationship of humans with space better than the NASA OSIRIS-REx mission. This space mission sent an unmanned spacecraft to the potentially hazardous asteroid Bennu to collect rock samples and it is now on its way to Earth. Interestingly, there is a big chance that this asteroid can strike the Earth in the year 2182.

NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a picture showing the Bennu asteroid as it was captured by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft while it took a last glance before flying towards the Earth. Bennu is a carbonaceous asteroid in the Apollo group discovered by the LINEAR Project on 11 September 1999. It is named after the ancient Egyptian mythological bird associated with the Sun, creation, and rebirth. It is believed that the asteroid contains pristine elements and molecules that can shed light on the origin of the solar system and the origin of life on Earth.

Interestingly, OSIRIS-REx is not the first mission to an asteroid to collect its sample. The Japanese probe Hayabusa returned samples from 25143 Itokawa in 2010, and Hayabusa2 returned from 162173 Ryugu in December 2020.

The picture was captured by PolyCam on the OSIRIS REx spacecraft. The stereo effects were given by Patrick Vantuyne.

NASA's description of the picture

Put on your red/blue glasses and float next to asteroid 101955 Bennu. Shaped like a spinning toy top with boulders littering its rough surface, the tiny Solar System world is about one Empire State Building (less than 500 meters) across. Frames used to construct this 3D anaglyph were taken by PolyCam on the OSIRIS_REx spacecraft on December 3, 2018 from a distance of about 80 kilometers. With a sample from the asteroid's rocky surface on board, OSIRIS_REx departed Bennu's vicinity in May of 2021 and is now enroute to planet Earth. The robotic spacecraft is scheduled to return the sample to Earth this September.

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First Published Date: 11 Mar, 14:39 IST
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