Keep Reading …. Originally posted on http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/osiris-rex-images-earth-during-flyby/
The asteroid-bound OSIRIS-REX mission took time during last Friday’s gravity assist maneuver to look back at its homeworld..
It isn’t everyday we get a postcard from a spacecraft passing our homeworld.
A color composite image of Earth taken on Sept. 22nd by the MapCam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The Pacific Ocean is visible in this image, as well as several familiar landmasses, including Australia in the lower left, and Baja California and the southwestern United States in the upper right. The dark vertical streaks at the top of the image are caused by short exposure times (less than three milliseconds).
NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona
Osiris-REX did just that this past Friday, passing by Earth at 11,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) distant — closer than the ring of geostationary satellites girdling the Earth — at 12:52 p.m. EDT / 16:52 UT. Osiris-REX was moving at 8.5 miles per second at the time of the encounter.
The big blue marble of the Earth filled the spacecraft’s view, as it snapped an image just hours after its closest approach to the Earth, from 106,000 thousand miles away. The view is centered on on the Pacific Ocean region, with Australia and New Zealand to the lower left and Baja California to the upper right. Also visible is Typhoon Nesat headed towards southeast Asia.
The jagged upper edge of the image is due to the short (less than three milliseconds) exposure time used to image Earth. Such exposures will not be necessary to image the much darker body of Bennu.
The maneuver kicked Osiris-REX slightly out of the ecliptic plane and towards its target: asteroid 101955 Bennu. Bennu is a carbonaceous asteroid 275 meters in diameter and orbiting the Sun once every 1.2 years in an orbit inclined 6° relative to the Earth’s orbit.
While the images of the Earth and Moon from Friday’s flyby aren’t of scientific value — lots of satellites, including NASA’s DSCOVR mission monitor the full-disk view of the Earth around the clock — the flyby did give the Osiris-REX team a chance to calibrate their imagers, including the OCAMS camera suite of instruments.
The world also waved hello to the Osiris-REX mission as it passed the Earth last Friday, a small ambassador of exploration headed to a small world.
What’s next for Osiris-REX? The plan now is for the mission to rendezvous with the asteroid next summer in August 2018, survey and map it up close, and then approach a selected site for sample collection using its TAGSAM arm. Osiris-REX will then depart Bennu to return its sample to Earth on September 24, 2023.
NASA has had other spacecraft fly by Earth in the past: Galileo (twice, once in 1990 and once in 1992), NEAR Shoemaker (1998), Cassini (1999), and most recently Juno (2013).
Now, its onward to Bennu for Osiris-REX and its date with space exploration history.
The post Osiris-REX Images Earth During Flyby appeared first on Sky & Telescope.
via Astronomy News – Sky & Telescope