Comet NEOWISE Sizzles as It Slides by the Sun, Providing a Treat for Observers

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE appears as a string of fuzzy red dots in this composite of several heat-sensitive infrared images taken by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission on March 27, 2020. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A comet visiting from the most distant parts of our solar system is putting on a spectacular nighttime display. Named Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, the comet made its once-in-our-lifetimes close approach to the Sun on July 3, 2020, and will cross outside Earth’s orbit on its way back to the outer parts of the solar system by mid-August.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Produces Nightingale Mosaic

Mosaic of Nightingale sample collection site on asteroid Bennu. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

by Erin Morton
University of Arizona

This view of sample site Nightingale on asteroid Bennu is a mosaic of images collected by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on March 3. A total of 345 PolyCam images were stitched together to produce the mosaic, which shows the site at 0.2 inches (4 mm) per pixel at full size.

These images were captured when the spacecraft performed an 820-foot (250-meter) reconnaissance pass over site Nightingale, which at the time was the closest the site had been imaged. The low-altitude pass provided high-resolution imagery for the OSIRIS-REx team to identify the best location within the site to target for sample collection.

Sample site Nightingale is located in the relatively clear patch just above the crater’s center – visible in the center of the image. The large, dark boulder located at the top right measures 43 feet (13 meters) on its longest axis. The mosaic is rotated so that Bennu’s east is at the top of the image.

Nightingale is the primary sample collection site for the OSIRIS-REx mission. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to make its first sample collection attempt at site Nightingale on Oct. 20.

Queen’s Brian May Works to Probe Origin of Asteroids

Brian May (Credit: ESA)

NICE, France (ESA PR) — Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May has teamed up with asteroid researchers to investigate striking similarities and a puzzling difference between separate bodies explored by space probes. The research team ran a supercomputer-based ‘fight club’ involving simulated large asteroid collisions to probe the objects’ likely origins. Their work is reported in Nature Communications.  

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Ready for Touchdown on Asteroid Bennu

During the sample collection event, Natural Feature Tracking (NFT) will guide NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to asteroid Bennu’s surface. The spacecraft takes real-time images of the asteroid’s surface features as it descends, and then compares these images with an onboard image catalog. The spacecraft then uses these geographical markers to orient itself and accurately target the touchdown site. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission is officially prepared for its long-awaited touchdown on asteroid Bennu’s surface. The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security – Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission has targeted Oct. 20 for its first sample collection attempt.

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Checkpoint Rehearsal From the Lens of NavCam 2

OSIRIS-REx approaches asteroid Bennu during rehearsal for sample return. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Captured on Apr. 14 during the first rehearsal of the OSIRIS-REx mission’s sample collection event, this series of images shows the navigation camera’s (NavCam 2) field of view as the NASA spacecraft approaches and moves away from asteroid Bennu’s surface.

The rehearsal brought the spacecraft through the first two maneuvers of the sampling sequence to a point approximately 213 feet (65 meters) above the surface, after which the spacecraft performed a back-away burn.

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Checkpoint: OSIRIS-REx Practices Sample Collection

The Nightingale Crater on asteroid Bennu is the primary sample collection site for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx’s mission. The image is overlaid with a graphic of the spacecraft to illustrate the scale of the site. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In August, the robotic spacecraft will make NASA’s first-ever attempt to descend to the surface of an asteroid, collect a sample and ultimately bring it safely back to Earth.

In order to achieve this challenging feat, the mission team devised new techniques to operate in asteroid Bennu’s microgravity environment – but they still need experience flying the spacecraft in close proximity to the asteroid in order to test them.

So, before touching down at sample site Nightingale this summer, OSIRIS-REx will first rehearse the activities leading up to the event.

On Apr. 14, the mission will pursue its first practice run – officially known as “Checkpoint” rehearsal – which will also place the spacecraft the closest it’s ever been to Bennu. This rehearsal is a chance for the OSIRIS-REx team and spacecraft to test the first steps of the robotic sample collection event.

There will be a four-hour social media campaign on @OSIRISREx and @NASASolarSystem.

Rehearsal Time for NASA’s Asteroid Sampling Spacecraft

This artist’s concept shows the trajectory and configuration of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft during Checkpoint rehearsal, which is the first time the mission will practice the initial steps for collecting a sample from asteroid Bennu. (Credits: NASA/ Goddard/University of Arizona)

By Brittany Enos
University of Arizona

In August, a robotic spacecraft will make NASA’s first-ever attempt to descend to the surface of an asteroid, collect a sample, and ultimately bring it safely back to Earth. In order to achieve this challenging feat, the OSIRIS-REx mission team devised new techniques to operate in asteroid Bennu’s microgravity environment – but they still need experience flying the spacecraft in close proximity to the asteroid in order to test them. So, before touching down at sample site Nightingale this summer, OSIRIS-REx will first rehearse the activities leading up to the event.

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OSIRIS-REx Swoops Over Sample Site Nightingale

On Mar. 3, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft performed a low-altitude flyover of site Nightingale. During the pass, science observations of asteroid Bennu took place from a distance of approximately 820 ft (250 m) – the closest the spacecraft has ever been to the asteroid’s surface. (Credit: University of Arizona)

OSIRIS-REx Mission Update
March 4, 2020

NASA’s first asteroid-sampling spacecraft just got its best look yet at asteroid Bennu. Yesterday, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft executed a very low pass over sample site Nightingale, taking observations from an altitude of 820 feet (250 m), which is the closest that OSIRIS-REx has flown over the asteroid so far. Nightingale, OSIRIS-REx’s primary sample collection site, is located within a crater in Bennu’s northern hemisphere.

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University of Arizona Looks Toward Work on NASA’s Potential Asteroid-Hunting Space Telescope

Bi-static radar images of the binary asteroid 2017 YE5 from the Arecibo Observatory and the Green Bank Observatory on June 25. The observations show that the asteroid consists of two separate objects in orbit around each other. (Credit: Arecibo/GBO/NSF/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — The University of Arizona is spearheading work that would begin efforts to construct a space-based infrared telescope that could provide the capabilities NASA needs to search for asteroids and comets that pose impact hazards to Earth, called near-Earth objects, or NEOs.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Explains Bennu’s Mysterious Particle Events

This view of asteroid Bennu ejecting particles from its surface on January 6 was created by combining two images taken by the NavCam 1 imager onboard NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft: a short exposure image (1.4 ms), which shows the asteroid clearly, and a long exposure image (5 sec), which shows the particles clearly. Other image processing techniques were also applied, such as cropping and adjusting the brightness and contrast of each layer. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Shortly after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu, an unexpected discovery by the mission’s science team revealed that the asteroid could be active, or consistently discharging particles into space. The ongoing examination of Bennu – and its sample that will eventually be returned to Earth – could potentially shed light on why this intriguing phenomenon is occurring.

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NASA Funds Research into Food Production on Deep Space Missions

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield maintaining Biolab in Europe’s Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station. Biolab is an experiment workstation tailored for research on biological samples such as micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, plants and small invertebrates. The unit features a centrifuge that creates simulated gravity to compare how samples react to weightlessness and artificial gravity. (Credit; NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

As NASA contemplates deep space missions to the moon and Mars, the space agency faces increasing challenges in keeping its astronauts physically and mentally healthy.

One of the key elements in that challenge is fresh food. Currently, fresh produce is supplied periodically to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on resupply ships. Crew members have also grown small quantities of vegetables on board.

Resupply becomes a more difficult task on deep space missions due to distance. Thus, astronauts will need to grow more of their own food. Last week, NASA announced three Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards to advance that goal.

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Asteroid Bennu’s Features to be Named After Mythical Birds

This image shows boulder formations on asteroid Bennu’s surface. It was taken by the PolyCam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on April 11, 2019 from a distance of 2.8 miles (4.5 km). (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

Greenbelt, Md. (NASA PR) — Working with NASA’s OSIRIS-REx team, the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN) approved the theme “birds and bird-like creatures in mythology” for naming surface features on asteroid (101955) Bennu.

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University of Arizona Partners With Space Tango to Test Diagnostic Tool in Space

by Marian Frank
UA College of Medicine

PHOENIX (UA PR) — Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix are partnering with Space Tango, a private aerospace company that designs, builds and operates facilities on the International Space Station, to develop an easy way to test astronauts’ health in space.

Led by Frederic Zenhausern, director of the UA Center for Applied NanoBioscience and Medicine, the project has received three independent NASA grants. The latest funding will allow researchers to develop a diagnostic tool – a miniature syringe-like device that can detect bioagents and hundreds of biomarkers in blood or saliva – and test it in space.

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A Region of Bennu’s Northern Hemisphere Close Up

Closeups of asteroid Bennu taken by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

This trio of images acquired by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft shows a wide shot and two close-ups of a region in asteroid Bennu’s northern hemisphere. The wide-angle image (left), obtained by the spacecraft’s MapCam camera, shows a 590-foot (180-meter) wide area with many rocks, including some large boulders, and a “pond” of regolith that is mostly devoid of large rocks.

The two closer images, obtained by the high-resolution PolyCam camera, show details of areas in the MapCam image, specifically a 50-foot (15 meter) boulder (top) and the regolith pond (bottom). The PolyCam frames are 101 feet (31 meters) across and the boulder depicted is approximately the same size as a humpback whale.

The images were taken on February 25 while the spacecraft was in orbit around Bennu, approximately 1.1 miles (1.8 km) from the asteroid’s surface. The observation plan for this day provided for one MapCam and two PolyCam images every 10 minutes, allowing for this combination of context and detail of Bennu’s surface.











NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Enters Close Orbit Around Bennu, Breaking Record

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona)

TUCSON (University of Arizona PR) — At 2:43 p.m. EST on December 31, while many on Earth prepared to welcome the New Year, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, 70 million miles (110 million kilometers) away, carried out a single, eight-second burn of its thrusters – and broke a space exploration record. The spacecraft entered into orbit around the asteroid Bennu, and made Bennu the smallest object ever to be orbited by a spacecraft.

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