A "potentially hazardous" astroid believed to be harbouring alien life is barrelling towards Earth. US space agency NASA has calculated there is a
A “potentially hazardous” astroid believed to be harbouring alien life is barrelling towards Earth. US space agency NASA has calculated there is a one in 2,700 chance of the asteroid, dubbed Bennu, slamming into our planet in the next century, ending life on Earth as we know it. And newly-released photographs have shown the most detailed views yet of the oddly-shaped “apocalypse asteroid”.
NASA’s Bennu-chasing OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has snapped incredibly detailed shots of the deadly space rock more than 1.4 billion miles away.
OSIRIS-REx has been orbiting Bennu since the beginning of 2019, in an attempt to learn more about the asteroid.
Measuring just 1,600 ft (500 m) across, Bennu is the smallest object ever to be orbited by an artificial satellite.
The latest batch of images were taken when OSIRIS-REx was only one mile above Bennu’s surface.
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The OSIRIS-REx Twitter account tweeted: “As I fly around Bennu during Orbital A, my scientific cameras are not collecting data.
“But my navCam 1 imager is taking optical navigation images like these to help monitor my path around the asteroid.”
OSIRIS-REx blasted off from Earth two years ago for a mission to study and return with a sample of Bennu in 2023.
OSIRIS-REx will orbit Bennu for the rest of the year before approaching close enough to snatch a rock sample from the asteroid’s surface.
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The OSIRIS-REx mission’s goal is to return a 2.1 ounce regolith sample.
The OSIRIS-REx Twitter account added: “For those keeping track at home I’ve traveled just under 1.4 billion miles (2.2 billon km) since leaving home in Sept 2016.
“I’ll remain in orbit around Bennu until late February when I begin a series of flybys for Detailed Survey.”
Asteroid Bennu is believed to be a carbon-rich rock potentially containing alien organic matter.
A NASA statement explained: “Analysing a sample from Bennu will help planetary scientists better understand the role asteroids may have played in delivering life-forming compounds to Earth.
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“We know from having studied Bennu through Earth- and space-based telescopes that it is a carbonaceous, or carbon-rich, asteroid. Carbon is the hinge upon which organic molecules hang.
“Bennu is likely rich in organic molecules, which are made of chains of carbon bonded with atoms of oxygen, hydrogen, and other elements in a chemical recipe that makes all known living things.
“Besides carbon, Bennu also might have another component important to life: water, which is trapped in the minerals that make up the asteroid.”
The space probe took the closeup using its NavCam 1 navigation camera, which it normally uses to track the path of Bennu’s orbit.
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