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OSIRIS-REx has moved into its next phase of research by lowering its orbit around the asteroid Bennu to only 2,231 feet above the surface.
Upon arrival at Bennu, the team observed particles ejecting into space from the asteroid’s surface. To better understand why this is occurring, the first two weeks of Orbital B will be devoted to observing these events by taking frequent images of the asteroid’s horizon. For the remaining five weeks, the spacecraft will map the entire asteroid using most of its onboard science instruments: the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) will produce a full terrain map; PolyCam will form a high-resolution, global image mosaic; and the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) and the REgolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS) will produce global maps in the infrared and X-ray bands. All of these measurements are essential for selecting the best sample collection site on Bennu’s surface.
The goal is to narrow to four the possible touch-and-go landing sites for grabbing a surface sample. They will pick the final choice in a reconnaissance phase now scheduled for the fall.
The present research phase will last until the middle of August, when they will raise the orbit slightly to give them a different perspective of its surface and the particles being released from it.