Thousands of space rocks travel close to the Earth – by close, scientists mean around 120 million miles out. Most of them, though, are concentrated in the area between Jupiter and Mars. Bennu is one of only 200 known asteroids with a solar orbit much like our Earth’s, however. In fact, one Bennu-year is equivalent to 436 Earth days. And, the body passes perilously close to our planet on a regular basis – once every half-a-dozen years.
Scientists originally gave the asteroid the rather catchy name 1999 RQ36. Bennu’s new moniker, however, was selected by Mike Puzio in a contest in 2013. The nine-year-old thought that the OSIRIS-REx’s TAGSAM sampling device and solar panels looked like the neck and wings of the Egyptian deity Bennu, who is often represented in the form of a heron.