NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured a stunning image of planet Earth and its Moon while on its way to collect bits of the asteroid, Bennu.
The asteroid, NASA says, is a carbon-rich ‘hunk of rock which could contain organic materials or ‘molecular precursors’ to life.
Bennu could someday make a ‘close pass or even a collision with Earth’, though not for several centuries.
◻ Send a robot to Mars
◻ Launch @NASA_Astronauts with American companies from U.S. soil
◻ Visit an asteroid
…just a few of the things we have planned for the year ahead!
— NASA (@NASA) January 6, 2018
OSIRIS-REx took the photo on 2nd October, 2017, when the spacecraft was approximately three million miles away from Earth – which is about 13 times the distance between the Earth and Moon.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was launched on 8th September, 2016, it then orbited the Sun for a year before flying past Earth to get a speed boost from the planet’s gravity.
It made its closest approach to our planet, an altitude of 11,000 miles – on 22nd September, 2017, before taking the photo of the Earth and Moon less than two weeks later.
— NASA's OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) December 26, 2017
The spacecraft is a mission to ‘figure out where we came from’, as asteroids are remnants from the formation of our solar system.
Yet while the spacecraft might tell us some things about where we’ve been and where we’re headed, it also can remind us of where we are right now, says NASA.
Last month, the space agency made a huge announcement about a discovery made in their Alien Hunting Project – a solar system exactly like our own, which is the first of its kind.
Two new planets found around the Kepler-90 star, which resembles our own sun, means the distant solar system has just as many planets as our own and could hold life.
NASA held a widely-anticipated press conference to reveal the new discovery.
It was made by the Kepler telescope and people were getting excited after NASA announced they were holding a press conference because they had some news – but giving scarce details.
The announcement of the press conference on the NASA website read:
NASA hosts a media teleconference to announce the latest discovery made by its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope.
The discovery was made by researchers using machine learning from Google.
Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence, and demonstrates new ways of analysing Kepler data.
NASA’s Kepler space telescope was built to discover other planets similar to Earth which could potentially sustain life.
The Kepler telescope – named after astronomer Johannes Kepler – was launched on 7 March 2009 – at the time scientists were unsure how many exoplanets existed.
Since becoming an integral part of the process of discovering other planets similar to Earth, it’s shown they share many things in common ‘indicating that each star might have its own planet’.
It completed its main mission back in 2012, however the Kepler telescope is still collecting data – in 2014 it began a new mission, dubbed ‘K2’, to search for more exoplanets and analyse other cosmic mysteries.
Due to the sheer amount of data being transmitted through the telescope, scientists on the ground are having trouble keeping up, which is why they’ve introduced Google’s AI program to help with the task at hand.
Kepler’s mission has already led to several major discoveries, like finding other planets in the universe which could support human life, which is what’s expected to be announced later.