The journey to Jupiter’s orbit is full of stars.
NASA lucy spaceship is at the beginning of its long journey to explore a group of asteroids called Jupiter Trojans, which are small remnants of our early solar system that share the orbit of the planet Jupiter around the sun.
Lucy launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket on October 16, 2021, and is preparing for a flyby of Earth this fall before beginning her explorations of Earth. asteroids. During the cruise, mission personnel are also completing tasks such as instrument calibration, and new images taken during a February test of the spacecraft’s four visible-light cameras offer a detailed view of 11 different star fields. .
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The spacecraft’s four cameras include the twin Terminal Tracking Cameras (T2CAM), the Multi-Color Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), and the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (L’LORRI). The calibration test, which took place on February 14, used the Lucy Instrument Pointing Platform to test the cameras’ performance, sensitivity and accuracy when pointed in different directions, according to the NASA statement.
T2CAM cameras have a wide field of view and are used to automatically lock on and track certain targets, such as the trojan asteroids during close flybys of Lucy. In turn, the twin cameras help ensure that the spacecraft’s other instruments are pointed at the target.
One of the test images from February 14 was a 10-second exposure of the Rosette Nebulawhich is visible in the bottom right center of the frame, taken with T2CAM.
MVIC, part of the L’Ralph instrument, is a higher resolution color scanning camera that produces panoramic views of space. During the test, a narrow part of the T2CAM field was captured and processed so that faint stars could be seen against the dark background of space.
Lucy’s most sensitive camera, L’LORRI, is a high-resolution monochrome telephoto lens with a narrow field of view of 0.29 square degrees. It is the same type of telescope as the instrument on board the hubble space telescope and will capture the most detailed images of the mission’s asteroid targets. The test images captured stars approximately 50,000 times fainter than the unaided human eye can see, according to the NASA statement.
The February 14 test was a follow-up to the first set of test images taken in November 2021, just a few months later. lucy launch. Therefore, this recent test was much more extensive, allowing the spacecraft team to test the functionality of their camera. However, the test did not include Lucy’s LEISA infrared spectrometer, which is also part of the L’Ralph instrument, or the spacecraft’s temperature-mapping L’TES instrument, which requires nearby planetary targets to obtain useful data.
The Lucy spacecraft is scheduled to reach its first target in 2025: a main belt asteroid called 52246 Donaldjohanson after paleontologist who discovered the hominin fossil Lucy that is the namesake of the mission.
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