Scientists from the OSIRIS-REx mission have produced a global map of asteroid Bennu’s surface. At 2 inches (5 centimeters) per pixel, this is the highest resolution at which a plenary body has been globally mapped.
This massive, global map of the surface of the asteroid Bennu is a mosaic composed of 2,155 images collected by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. At 5 centimeters per pixel, researchers have managed to produce what is considered the highest resolution a planetary body has been globally mapped to.
As revealed by the mission’s website, the images were taken between March 7 and April 19, 2019, with the spacecraft’s PolyCam camera. The spacecraft collected these images at distances ranging from 3.1 to 5 kilometers above the asteroid’s surface, the orography of which has been revealed to be much more rugged than anticipated.
The mission scientists used this detailed view of Bennu during their selection of the primary and reserve sample collection sites: Nightingale and Osprey, where the spacecraft is set to descend this summer to sample the asteroid an object which is believed to date back to the very dawn of the Solar System. If everything goes according to plan and the spacecraft successfully lands on the asteroid, it will recover surface samples of the space rock and hopefully return them to Earth for scientists to analyze.
The mission is expected to have the spacecraft briefly land on the surface of one of the designated sample-recovery areas in August. The spacecraft will remain no more than five seconds on the surface, during which time it is expected to scoop up a surface sample of the regolith material and return it to Earth for study. If everything works out as planned, the spacecraft is expected to leave the orbit of asteroid Bennu in March 2021, and return to Earth two years later in September 2023.
The surface features of Bennu are named after birds and bird-like mythological creatures.
Asteroid Bennu–officially designated 101955 Bennu–is an Apollo group carbonaceous asteroid discovered in September 1999. The asteroid is of great importance to scientists not only because it is believed to date back to the very beginnings of our solar system, but because the space rock is considered a potentially hazardous object, listed on the Sentry Risk Table with the second-highest cumulative rating on the Palermo Technical Impact Hazard Scale.
It is believed that the material which makes up the asteroid originally came from the disintegration of a much larger body—a planetoid or a proto-planet.
The asteroid is named after the Bennu, the ancient Egyptian mythological bird associated with the Sun, creation, and rebirth.
According to reports, the asteroid has a cumulative 1-in-2,700 chance of impacting Earth between 2175 and 2199.
You can download the massive 859 MB image of the panoramic map here.