Friday, September 29, 2023

NASA’s Lucy sees her first target asteroid

The Lucy spacecraft is nearing its first encounter with an asteroid, a small rocky celestial body that was recently added to the mission plan. Lucy was still on her way to Jupiter’s asteroid swarm when she caught a glimpse of Dinikinesh in the main asteroid belt.

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NASA’s asteroid probe captured two images of the target asteroid on September 2 and 5, showing Dinikinesh in motion against a starry but static background. The space agency released the images Monday as the team behind the mission tested the spacecraft’s systems and procedures leading up to its closest approach to the asteroid in November.

Lucy photographed Dinikinesh, which is only about 1 kilometer wide, while it was 23 million kilometers from the asteroid. The spacecraft will continue to approach the asteroid until its close flyby, reaching a distance of 265 miles (425 km). Lucy will continue to familiarize herself with her first target asteroid over the next month. According to NASA, several images were taken by Dinikinesh as part of its optical navigation program, which uses the asteroid’s apparent position against the stellar background to determine the relative position of the spacecraft and its target, ensuring an accurate flyby.

Dinkinesh, or ድንቅነሽ in Amharic, the Ethiopian name for the human ancestor fossil also known as Lucy, was discovered in 1999 but remained unnamed until it was selected as a target for the mission in January.

The asteroid was added to Lucy’s target list to test the spacecraft’s terminal tracking system, which creates precise images. during their high-speed encounters with asteroids.

It was launched in October 2021 and is expected to reach its asteroid targets in 2027 and 2028. The spacecraft will begin its Trojan tour with a visit to Eurybates and its binary partner Queta, followed by Polymele and its binary partner Leuco, Orus, and the binary pair Patroclus and Menoetius. Lucy is expected to travel more than 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) during her 12-year mission, visiting ten asteroids.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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