The Lucy spacecraft is getting nearer to its first asteroid encounter, a small, stony celestial physique that was lately added to the mission’s itinerary. Nonetheless on its technique to rendezvous with Jupiter’s swarm of asteroids, Lucy caught a glimpse of Dinikinesh in the principle asteroid belt.
NASA’s asteroid probe captured two photos of the goal asteroid on September 2 and 5, revealing Dinikinesh in movement in opposition to a busy but static starry backdrop. The area company released the pictures on Monday because the group behind the mission assessments the spacecraft’s methods and procedures till its closest method to the asteroid on November 1.
Lucy imaged Dinikinesh, which is simply a couple of half-mile extensive (1 kilometer), whereas it was 14 million miles (23 million kilometers) away from the asteroid. The spacecraft will proceed to maneuver nearer to the asteroid till its shut flyby, the place it is going to be at a distance of 265 miles (425 km). Lucy will proceed to get aware of its first asteroid goal over the following month or so, capturing a number of photos of Dinikinesh as a part of its optical navigation program that makes use of the asteroid’s obvious place in opposition to the star background to find out the relative place of the spacecraft and its goal to make sure an correct flyby, in line with NASA.
Dinkinesh, or ድንቅነሽ in Amharic, the Ethiopian identify for the human-ancestor fossil that’s also referred to as Lucy, was found in 1999 however was left unnamed till it was selected as a target for the mission in January.
The asteroid was added to Lucy’s checklist of targets as a technique to check the spacecraft’s terminal monitoring system, which is used for exact imaging throughout its excessive pace encounters with the asteroids.
Lucy launched in October 2021 and is predicted to succeed in its asteroid targets in 2027 and 2028. The spacecraft will start its Trojan tour by visiting Eurybates and its binary companion Queta, adopted by Polymele and its binary companion, Leucus, Orus, and the binary pair Patroclus and Menoetius. Lucy is predicted to journey over 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) throughout its 12-year mission, throughout which the probe will go to 10 asteroids.