Dolores Hill will discuss highlights of the exciting NASA mission to near-Earth asteroid Bennu and invite amateur astronomers to join the mission’s citizen science program: Target Asteroids!/Target NEOs! (the Astronomical League’s companion observing program). You can be an important partner in the OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission and contribute observations to benefit future generations!
Dolores will show the innovative method that will be used to obtain a sample from asteroid Bennu without actually landing on the asteroid itself and explain why return of a pristine, protected sample is important. The robotic OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral in September 2016. Upcoming Earth Gravity Assist will take place this September to propel the spacecraft out to asteroid rendezvous in 2018 and sample return to Earth in 2023. Already the mission has made important discoveries about Bennu and the orbital evolution of small asteroids. The samples will reveal new information about the oldest solids and organic material in the Solar System. Earth-based astronomical observations, images, spectra and a variety of maps will significantly advance our understanding of asteroid-meteorite connections, providing direct “ground truth” comparisons.
This long-term mission serves as a pathfinder for future asteroid missions and provides opportunities for amateur astronomers and public outreach. Target Asteroids! and Target NEOs! enlist amateur astronomers to observe a particular list of asteroids of interest to the OSIRIS-REx science team and future spacecraft designers. While there are much astronomical data available for Bennu, the carbonaceous target of the OSIRIS-REx mission, additional observations of other asteroids allow scientists to learn more about the entire asteroid population and place Bennu in context. Because some of these asteroids will be targets of future spacecraft missions as well, the data submitted will be useful for a long time. OSIRIS-REx Ambassadors share information about the mission with their local clubs and communities. We invite you to join the team!
*OSIRIS-REx is an acronym: Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource, Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer