Ceres’ Salty Mound is the Result of Ongoing Geologic Activity

First observed with the Hubble Space Telescope in 2003, the curious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres—the largest world in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter—was brought into exquisite focus with the arrival of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in 2015. The largest and brightest of these spots—a single 340-meter-high mound named Cerealia Facula…

Sunlight Can Crack Rocks on Asteroids

Here on Earth the surfaces of pretty much all but the most freshly-exposed (geologically-speaking, of course) rock surfaces exhibit the effects of atmospheric weathering—from rain, snow, and ice to wind, dust-blown sand, flowing water, and extreme heat. And underlying all of that are the relentless forces of tectonic activity. But on dry, airless, and tectonically…

The Closest Image of Asteroid Bennu Yet

(From the OSIRIS-REx mission site) Captured on April 14, 2020, this image shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s sampling arm – called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) – and asteroid Bennu during the mission’s Checkpoint Rehearsal. The chosen sample site “Nightingale” is visible in the left of the image frame, located in the relatively clear, dark patch….

Just Passing By: the Globe of Earth Imaged by OSIRIS-REx

Here’s our beautiful blue marble as seen by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on Sept. 22, 2017 from a distance of 106,000 miles (170,000 km). It had just completed a gravity-assist flyby of Earth—a little 19,000 mph “once around the block” that gave the spacecraft an 8,500-mile-an-hour speed boost necessary to adjust its course toward Bennu, the…

Asteroid 2014 JO25 Gets Some Sweet Radar Love

This is our best look yet at asteroid 2014 JO25, which made its closest pass by Earth for at least the next 500 years on April 19, 2017. The animation above is composed of radar observations made from NASA’s Goldstone facility in California when the asteroid was between 1.53 and 1.61 million miles away. These…

Worried About Asteroid 2014 JO25? Don’t Be.

SPACE NEWS FLASH: On Wednesday, April 19, the asteroid 2014 JO25 will pass by Earth, coming as close as about 1.1 million miles at 12:24 UTC (8:24 a.m. EDT / 5:24 a.m. PDT). Yes, this asteroid is fairly large—just under half a mile across—and is traveling very fast—about 21 miles a second— BUT even so it…

So No New Earth Trojans, But OSIRIS-REx’s MapCam Surpassed Expectations

Remember when I mentioned that NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was going to be scanning for “Trojan” asteroids at Earth-Sun L4? Well the results are in and survey says: no new Trojans (besides 2010 TK7, which we already knew about.) But the search wasn’t in vain—it gave mission scientists a chance put the spacecraft’s OCAMS instruments to the test and they passed with flying…

NEAR Showed Us a Rocky World of Love

This image of the asteroid Eros—named after the Greek god of love—was captured on March 3, 2000, by NASA’s NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft. It’s actually a mosaic of six separate images acquired from a distance of 127 miles from the 20-mile-wide asteroid, and reveals many large boulders scattered across the surface down to about 160 feet in…

OSIRIS-REx Captures a Picture of Jupiter from L4

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx may be designed to study asteroids close up but recently it’s captured a view of something farther away and much, much larger: the giant planet Jupiter and three of its largest moons at a distance of over 400 million miles! The image was taken on Feb. 12, 2017, when the spacecraft was 76 million…

An Asteroid Approaches Your Planet: Roll a d10

It sounds like a surprise challenge posed by the “Dungeon Master” in a game of Dungeons & Dragons but this is sort of what happened on a cosmic scale on Feb. 6, 2017, when the 200-meter (656-foot) -wide asteroid 2017 BQ6 passed by Earth. Using the radar imaging capabilities of the giant 70-meter antenna at…