This amazing photograph of the asteroid Bennu occupies 900MB and each of its pixels corresponds to 5 cm real
The mapping of a complete celestial body at the highest resolution ever madeThis is how NASA qualifies the gigantic photograph they have made of the asteroid Bennu. OSIRIS-REx, the probe sent to analyze the asteroid, arrived at Bennu in December 2018 and among many other things it has done, one of them is this spectacular photograph that shows the surface of the huge rock.
Rocks and dust in black and white is all that we will find in the 50,669 x 25,350 pixels having the image resolution. But it is not rock and dust from anywhere, but from an asteroid that is at a minimum Earth orbit of 482,000 kilometers and that is composed of the original materials that shaped the Solar System. Anyway, just because of the level of precision with which the photograph has been taken, taking into account the feat of reaching the asteroid, it should be reason enough to be the object of admiration.
The image is a flat “display” of the asteroid’s three-dimensional shape, which is why the upper and lower edges appear distorted. To get an idea of its magnitude, each of the pixels of the image (50,669 wide and 25,350 high) correspond to 5 centimeters of the real size of the asteroid. If you want to explore the image in detail, it is possible to download it in full size from the OSIRIS-REx official website, but it does occupy 900MB, so it is better to do it with Wi-Fi and on a computer capable of opening it.
The image as such is not just a photograph, but has been composed from 2,155 individual photographs that the probe has carried out during a period of 2019 that includes from March 7 to April 19. The photographs were taken at an altitude of between three and five kilometers from the asteroid. From these photographs NASA has created a huge “mosaic” with all of them to have a global image of the asteroid. In a published paper they explain the process in detail.
The Universe in high definition
Didn’t NASA engineers have anything better to do than take pictures? Not exactly, the image serves more than just how impressive it can be to see it. The main of its functions for NASA is to use it to have a global map of the asteroid and know where to land the OSIRIS-REx probe on the asteroid in order to analyze it. The chosen site is Nightingale, a huge crater in the northern region of the asteroid. The idea is that you also collect a part of your compound from the surface and bring it back to Earth to analyze it in detail.
Photographing objects in the Solar System in high resolution is not something new and it does have scientific research purposes and not just a simple method of assisting in astronomical reporting. High-resolution images offer astronomers a multitude of details to study the composition of celestial bodies.
And the rest of the world helps us to have fascinating images that serve to understand the magnitude and complexity of the Universe. An example of this is the largest photograph of the Sun ever made, the deepest image in the Universe, a 46-gigapixel Milky Way or the Moon at 110 megapixels.