Profile: Asteroid Bennu

Image (Credit): Mosaic image of asteroid Bennu composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2018 by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

Back in 2020, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collected samples from asteroid Bennu, named after the ancient Egyptian mythological bird associated with the Sun, creation, and rebirth. These samples are scheduled to return to Earth until next year, but in the meantime there is already a lot that NASA knows about this asteroid. Some of the key points are listed below:

  • Bennu is over 4.5 billion years old.
  • Bennu is a “rubble-pile” asteroid, meaning it is rocky debris compressed by gravity.
  • Bennu is likely to be rich in platinum and gold compared to the average crust on Earth.
  • Between the years 2175 and 2199, the chance that Bennu will impact Earth is only 1-in-2,700.

You can tour the surface of Bennu by viewing a video produced by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Titled “Tour of Asteroid Bennu,” the film was featured in the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival Electronic Theater. While it did not win any awards, it was still a great opportunity to share the mission with a wider audience.

Missions to planets and moons tend to get most of the attention, but asteroids can reveal plenty about the origins of our solar system. You can learn more about the OSIRIS-REx mission to Bennu here.