"Asteroid Falling to Earth" by State Farm is licensed under CC BY 2.0

NASA Arrives at Bennu Today, But Exactly Where Is That Asteroid?

Dec 3, 2018

By Meghan Bartels

NASA will arrive at an asteroid called Bennu today (Dec. 3), kicking the space agency’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample-return mission into full gear.

OSIRIS-REx will arrive at Bennu at about 12 p.m. EST (1700 GMT) and you can watch it live here, courtesy of NASA, beginning at 11:45 a.m. EST (1645 GMT). A mission program will precede the event at 11:15 a.m. EST (1615 GMT).

But where is that asteroid and its visiting spacecraft, which is now two years into its journey? Although it’s easy to assume that an asteroid mission would target the asteroid belt, Bennu isn’t tucked in this rocky region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Instead, Bennu’s orbit waltzes between those of Earth and of Mars, averaging around 100 million miles (160 million kilometers) away from the sun. That makes it a near-Earth asteroid, like the one Japan’s Hayabusa-2 mission is currently studying.

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