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Passing spacecraft snaps Earth pics

OSIRIS-REx swept past Earth on September 22 and received a gravity boost toward its goal, asteroid Bennu, in 2018. It also acquired the images to make this stunning new Earth portrait.

View larger. | Color composite image of Earth taken September 22 by the MapCam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraftt, via NASA.

NASA released this new color composite image of Earth from space today (September 26, 2017). The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft – launched a year ago and bound for an encounter with asteroid Bennu in 2018 – acquired the images during a close flyby of our planet on September 22. It was just hours after the spacecraft completed its Earth gravity assist – designed to increase its speed and set on a path toward the asteroid – sweeping as near to Earth as approximately 106,000 miles (170,000 km). The spacecraft used its MapCam camera, part of the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS) operated by the University of Arizona.

The image spans the Pacific Ocean from Australia at the lower left, to Baja California and the southwestern United States in the upper right.

The dark vertical streaks at the top of the image are caused by short exposure times (less than three milliseconds), NASA said, adding:

Short exposure times are required for imaging an object as bright as Earth, but are not anticipated for an object as dark as the asteroid Bennu, which the camera was designed to image.

The OSIRIS-REx craft has the ultimate goal of obtaining a sample from asteroid Bennu and returning it to Earth in 2023.

Click here for more images from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

Via NASA

Bottom line: Earth portrait from OSIRIS-REx asteroid craft, made from images acquired during the Earth gravity assist on September 22, 2017.

Deborah Byrd

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