NASA pulls out incredibly high-res global map of asteroid Bennu
With OSIRIS-REx in close orbit around Bennu, we’ve already seen some pretty amazing up-close shots of the asteroid. And now, NASA has released a full global map of this rocky little world in unprecedented resolution.
The map is a mosaic made up of 2,155 individual images, giving it an incredibly high resolution of just 2 inches (5 cm) per pixel. That makes it the highest-resolution global map of any planetary body to date.
The images used to make the map were snapped by OSIRIS-REx between March 7 and April 19, 2019. During that time, the spacecraft was flying overhead at an altitude of between 1.9 to 3.1 miles (3.1 to 5 km).
The incredible level of detail provided allowed the OSIRIS-REx science team to choose the safest place on the rock for the spacecraft to touchdown. The chosen site, codenamed Nightingale, is in a large crater in the northern region of the asteroid.
The current plan is for the craft to land in August for as little as five seconds, during which time it will scoop up a sample of the regolith material to return to Earth for study. If all goes as planned, OSIRIS-REx will leave asteroid Bennu in March 2021, and finally arrive back here on Earth in September 2023.
These detailed landscape shots make for stunning postcards in the meantime.
Full-sized versions of the image can be downloaded from the OSIRIS-REx mission page, but at 859 MB it’s quite a hefty file.