NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, a short and sweet acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer, was launched in September 2016 with one goal in mind: to visit an asteroid named Bennu and collect surface samples that would one day be returned to Earth for a closer analysis.
OSIRIS-REx had one concise goal in mind, but recently, mission scientists received a bit more than they initially bargained for. More specifically, the spacecraft’s onboard Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS) instrument managed to detect a distant black hole residing more than 30,000 light-years away.
From what we can gather, REXIS was making observations of Bennu several million miles away from Earth when it picked up on the X-rays being radiating from a point off the asteroid’s edge. It was later ascertained that those X-rays were originating from the aforementioned black hole, as instruments from other spacecraft in space later detected similar activity from the same region in space.
It’s worth noting that this observation set a precedent in astronomical history – it was the first time that an instrument had made a black hole detection from interplanetary space.