Nasa spacecraft captures detailed picture of Asteroid Bennu from just 0.8km above its surface
US space agency Nasa has captured its closest and most-detailed image yet of Bennu, a 78-billion kilogram asteroid which makes a close approach to Earth every six years.
Bennu is a potentially hazardous object that has a chance of hitting Earth - but not until around 150 years in the future, sometime between 2175 and 2199. And if it does hit it's not big enough to pose a severe risk to the planet.
It is the second time the spacecraft has put itself into orbit around the asteroid, snapping a shot at a distance of 0.4 miles from the asteroid's surface.
Researchers behind the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft observing Bennu said the view is the closest orbit a spacecraft has ever made around a small planetary body in our solar system, breaking its own record set late in December in which it came as close as 1.3 kilometres (0.8 miles).
The latest image was captured by the agency's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on June 13, showing half of the rock brightened by sunlight while the other half sits in the shadows.
Bennu's largest boulder is also visible, protruding from the southern hemisphere. It is named after the Bennu, the ancient Egyptian mythological bird associated with the Sun, creation, and rebirth.
OSIRIS-REx - which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security - Regolith Explorer - arrived at Bennu on December 3, after launching from Earth in September 2016.
Asteroids, which orbit the sun but are much smaller than planets, are among the oldest objects in the solar system and could provide answers about how Earth evolved.
Scientists believe that Bennu was originally part of a much larger asteroid which it broke away from around 700 million to two billion years ago.