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University of Arizona Digs Bennu | GradSchoolShopper

University of Arizona Digs Bennu

What is Bennu, and what does the University of Arizona’s College of Optical Sciences have to do with it? Here’s a hint: UA really digs space rocks.

Bennu is the nickname of near-Earth asteroid 101955 Bennu, formerly 1999 RQ36. The University of Arizona, for its part, was chosen to head up an $800m NASA project. The goal? To collect bits of asteroid for analysis. The name? OSIRIS-REx, short for Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer.

OSIRIS-REx. Image: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

UA’s College of Optical Sciences is playing an integral role in OSIRIS-REx, contributing to a multidisciplinary project team that includes experts from many of the university’s other departments as well. UA’s optical scientists are working in particular to design the camera systems that are critical to the mission’s success. The cameras are mission critical to navigation (finding tiny, black Bennu when the spacecraft is millions of kilometers away) and verifying that surface samples have been collected.

Of course, when speaking of near-Earth asteroids, “near” is a relative term – OSIRIS-REx will take around two years just to get to Bennu after a 2016 launch. After collecting samples and analyzing its surroundings, it will then bring the samples back to Earth in a capsule that should arrive back here by 2023.

Can you see yourself working on a project like this as an optical science grad student? Direct your gaze to the University of Arizona’s College of Optical Sciences, or visit GradSchoolShopper.com to learn more about UA and other great grad school opportunities!

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