NASA asteroid investigator Lucy tests her four cameras

NASA’s Lucy mission launched last year on its journey to the Trojan asteroids, located in Jupiter’s orbit. Despite a problem with one of its solar panels, the spacecraft traveled as planned and is on its way to study ancient asteroids in an effort to learn more about the formation of the solar system. Now NASA has shared some of the first images taken by Lucy’s instruments as part of their calibration process.

Lucy has a total of four cameras, including the Twin Terminal Tracking Cameras (T2CAM), which have a wide field of view and are used to lock onto asteroids and point other instruments in the right direction while Lucy hover over them closely. The other cameras are the Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) which will take panorama-type images, and the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (L’LORRI) which will take high-resolution, close-up images of asteroids. In addition to her cameras, Lucy also has a spectrometer and a temperature mapping instrument.

With an exposure time of 10 seconds, the Rosetta Nebula is just visible at the bottom right of the center of the T2CAM frame. NASA/Goddard/SwRI

These calibration images were taken in February of this year, as part of a procedure that involved pointing the spacecraft’s instruments at 11 different targets to verify both that the spacecraft could point correctly and that the instruments were sufficiently sensitive and precise. This was the second set of calibration images taken, after a preliminary but much less detailed set of images were taken shortly after launch in November 2021.

The faintest visible stars in this raw LORRI image are about 17th magnitude, 50,000 times fainter than the unaided human eye can see.  Image brightness levels have been adjusted to improve visibility of faint stars.  The exposure time was 10 seconds.  Careful observers will notice that the stars are slightly elongated in this relatively unprocessed image;  the Lucy team has techniques to mitigate this effect, and the optical quality is sufficient to meet the scientific objectives of the mission.
The faintest visible stars in this raw LORRI image are about 17th magnitude, 50,000 times fainter than the unaided human eye can see. Image brightness levels have been adjusted to improve visibility of faint stars. The exposure time was 10 seconds. Careful observers will notice that the stars are slightly elongated in this relatively unprocessed image; the Lucy team has techniques to mitigate this effect, and the optical quality is sufficient to meet the scientific objectives of the mission. NASA/Goddard/SwRI/Johns Hopkins APL

The images show the instruments working well and are ready for their encounter with the Trojan asteroids, where Lucy is expected to arrive in 2027.

“We started working on the Lucy mission concept in early 2014, so this launch was a long time coming,” said Lucy lead researcher Hal Levison of the institute’s Southwest Research Institute. annual report 2021. “It will be several more years before we get to the first Trojan asteroid, but these objects are worth the wait and all the effort because of their immense scientific value. They are like diamonds in the sky.

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