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Mapping Asteroid Bennu

24 Dec 2019, 18:27 UTC
Mapping Asteroid Bennu
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The holiday season seems an appropriate time to thank not only my Centauri Dreams readers for their continued high level of discussion in these pages, but also the army of citizen scientists who are out there working on everything from exoplanet detection to asteroid mapping. We saw recently how valuable the work of amateurs like Thiam-Guan Tan can be in confirming a possible exoplanet, while projects like the Habitable Exoplanet Hunting Project continue coming online to push the boundaries of what amateur equipment can do.
Now comes word of the signal contribution made to OSIRIS-REx and its mission to asteroid Bennu. You’ll recall that when the spacecraft arrived at the asteroid, the surface was found to be far more littered with rocks and boulders than anyone had foreseen. Finding a spot for landing and retrieving samples would be no easy task, but it was made substantially more manageable by a team of 3,500 people using their PCs to join in analysis and characterization of the asteroid surface.
These volunteers measured boulders and marked craters, eventually tallying over 14 million annotations of features on Bennu’s emerging global map. Behind all this work was CosmoQuest, a project based at the Planetary ...

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