Asteroid Bennu Sample Site Finalists

Future high-res imaging of each site will help the OSIRIS-REx team spot areas of fine-grain material ideal for the spacecraft's sampling instrument.

The team has selected four sites to collect samples for the asteroid Bennu, which it has been orbiting for months.

Since arriving at near-Earth asteroid Bennu in December 2018, NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission has been studying this small world of boulders, rocks, and loose rubble - and looking for a place to touch down.

The spacecraft has already mapped the entire Bennu meteor - dubbed the "apocalypse asteroid" - in order to identify the safest and most accessible spots to retrieve a chunk of its surface. "The OSIRIS-REx team has demonstrated these essential traits for overcoming the unexpected throughout the Bennu encounter". As mentioned earlier, the features will be named after mythological birds and bird-like creatures, but the landing sites have been named Nightingale, Kingfisher, Osprey, and Sandpiper, all indigenous to Egypt keeping with the theme of Bennu's name as it originates from the Egyptian depiction of a bennu heron. The selection of these sites was challenging as the rocky terrain of Bennu is a spacecraft damaging threat.

How to watch the Perseid meteor shower tonight in Miami
This year, the best time to view the show will be in the last hours before dawn on the mornings of August 12th and 13th. Those grains of sand and rock fall into and burn up in the upper atmosphere, creating streaks of light.

Kingfisher sits within a small crater near the asteroid's equator. The exact sample location is free of larger rocks, and it also has the strongest signature for hydrated minerals. Osprey is likely to be the location with the most carbon-rich minerals.

And Sandpiper is a mostly flat area situated in Bennu's southern hemisphere.

'Although OSIRIS-REx was created to collect a sample from an asteroid with a beach-like area, the extraordinary in-flight performance to date demonstrates that we will be able to meet the challenge that the rugged surface of Bennu presents, ' said Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

This fall, OSIRIS-REx will begin detailed analyses of the four candidate sites during the mission's reconnaissance phase. The goal of OSIRIS-REx is to collect a sample of Bennu in mid-2020, and return it to Earth in late 2023.

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