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Asteroid-circling spacecraft grabs cool snapshot of Earth

On Dec. 19, 2018 OSIRIS-REx used its NavCam 1 camera to capture this image of three familiar planetary bodies: asteroid Bennu, Earth, and the moon. (Image: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin Space)
On Dec. 19, 2018 OSIRIS-REx used its NavCam 1 camera to capture this image of three familiar planetary bodies: asteroid Bennu, Earth, and the moon. (Image: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin Space)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – An asteroid-circling spacecraft has captured a cool snapshot of home.

NASA's Osiris-Rex spacecraft took the picture days before going into orbit around asteroid Bennu on New Year's Eve.

The tiny asteroid -- barely one-third of a mile (500 meters) across -- appears as a big bright blob in the long-exposure photo released last week. Seventy million miles (110 million kilometers) away, Earth appears as a white dot, with the moon an even smaller dot but still clearly visible.

Osiris-Rex is the first spacecraft to orbit such a small celestial body, and from such a close distance -- about a mile (1,600 meters) out.

Next year, Osiris-Rex will attempt to gather some samples from the carbon-rich asteroid, for return to Earth in 2023.

Osiris-Rex launched from Cape Canaveral in 2016.