Image of 4.5-billion-year-old asteroid Bennu Photograph:( Twitter )
The image of asteroid Bennu has been taken by the Osiris Rex spacecraft which is on its way back to Earth with a sample of rocks and dust from the ancient cosmic object
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has shared a stunning image of a 4.5-billion-year-old asteroid crossing the Earth.
The image of asteroid Bennu has been taken by the Osiris Rex spacecraft which is on its way back to Earth with a sample of rocks and dust from the ancient cosmic object.
The spacecraft found traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules - part of the recipe for water and thus the potential for life - embedded in the asteroid's rocky surface, said Dante Lauretta, the OSIRIS-REx mission's principal investigator, in 2018.
The trip back to Earth will take about two years. The spacecraft will then eject a capsule containing the asteroid samples, which NASA says will land in a remote area of Utah.
NASA says samples will be distributed to research laboratories worldwide, but 75 per cent of the samples will be preserved at the Johnson Space Center in Houston for future generations to study with technologies not yet created.
The roughly $800 million, minivan-sized OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, launched in 2016 to grab and return the first US sample of pristine asteroid materials. Japan is the only other country to have accomplished such a feat.
Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system's formation some 4.5 billion years ago. A sample could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists say.
(With inputs from agencies)