The waning crescent of Asteroid Bennu can be seen in the last image captured by the NASA OSIRIS-REx spacecraft before its departure from the space rock. NASA released the image on May 11, but it was taken already on April 9, about a month before OSIRIS-REx embarked on its journey home on May 10. The space probe, NASA’s first to collect a sample from an asteroid, will return to Earth in September 2023. It carries 2 ounces (60 grams) of regolith it collected during a brief touch down in October 2020.
Asteroids are like time capsules, providing scientists with a window into the earliest period of the solar system formation. Lacking atmospheric and geological processes, they are made of rocks that have not changed over billions of years. Bennu, however, presented some surprises to the researchers as it turned out to be much rockier than predicted from ground-based observations.— Tereza Pultarova