February 5, 2020

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU Planetarium Presents “Rock-A-Bye Bennu” Feb. 20

Please note that this event was originally scheduled for Feb. 6, but due to a weather-related power outage on campus, it was rescheduled for Feb. 20. 

VALDOSTA — The Valdosta State University Planetarium will present “Rock-A-Bye Bennu” at 7 p.m., 8 p.m., and 9 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20. This presentation is free of charge and open to the public.

During “Rock-A-Bye Bennu” Dr. Martha Leake, a professor from VSU’s Department of Physics, Astronomy, Geosciences, and Engineering Technology, will present the latest results from NASA’s OSIRIS REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission currently in orbit around asteroid Bennu.

“This asteroid, more than five football fields in length and covered with rocks of many sizes, spins once every 4.3 hours and is a potentially hazardous asteroid,” according to VSU’s team of astronomy experts. “It is primitive, dating back to the origin of the solar system, and may have organic materials on its surface. We wish to know more about it.”

The OSIRIS REx mission launched on Sept. 8, 2016, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The spacecraft reached Bennu on Dec. 3, 2018, and is scheduled to return with samples of surface dirt and pebbles in 2023. The mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve their understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth.

Leake was among several thousand researchers invited last spring and summer to map proposed collection sites using detailed photographs of Bennu. The area she helped map — Site Osprey — was ultimately selected as the backup collection site for the OSIRIS REx mission. Scientists believe the collection site ultimately selected — Site Nightingale — holds the greatest amount of well-preserved, unobstructed, fine-grained material.   

Seating for each of the three presentations is limited to 47 guests. Free admission tickets will be distributed beginning at 6 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis at the VSU Planetarium.

The VSU Observatory will be open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., weather permitting, allowing guests the opportunity to view the stars and planets.  

Located on the third floor of Nevins Hall, the VSU Planetarium features a Digitarium Kappa digital projector, which can reproduce the night sky as seen from anywhere on Earth or from the surface of any object in the solar system, at any time in history, past or future.

Limited parking will be available in front of Nevins Hall and across Patterson Street.

Planetarium public outreach shows are appropriate for school-age children and adults.

Contact VSU’s Department of Physics, Astronomy, Geosciences, and Engineering Technology at (229) 333-5752 for more information.

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