That’s no moon. That’s a moonlet.
NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) (opens in new tab) spacecraft simply beamed again the primary picture of its goal, the moonlet Dimorphos, in addition to its physique it orbits, the asteroid Didymos (opens in new tab). DART is a planetary protection check mission designed to affect the moonlet to change its trajectory round Didymos. If confirmed efficient, this spacecraft design might probably be scaled as much as deflect an Earth-bound asteroid (opens in new tab). (Didymos and Dimorphos pose no risk to Earth (opens in new tab) — they’re a check web site for the kinetic affect expertise.)
The picture, which is a composite of 243 particular person photos, comes from DART’s sole instrument, the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical Navigation (DRACO); it was taken on July 27 and launched on Wednesday (Sept. 7). It reveals each Dimorphos and Didymos as a single level of sunshine — the spacecraft was nonetheless 20 million miles (32 million kilometers) away from the asteroids at that time, so they seem indistinguishable.
Related: NASA’s DART asteroid-impact mission defined in photos (opens in new tab)
“This first set of images is being used as a test to prove our imaging techniques,” DART mission programs engineer Elena Adams of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, which is managing the mission, stated in a press release (opens in new tab). “The quality of the image is similar to what we could obtain from ground-based telescopes, but it is important to show that DRACO is working properly and can see its target to make any adjustments needed before we begin using the images to guide the spacecraft into the asteroid autonomously.”
Ultimately, DART will use DRACO to navigate to its affect web site fully independently of its Earth-based controllers. But for now, people are in cost. Over the subsequent three weeks, the crew will use photos taken each 5 hours to make a collection of three trajectory correction maneuvers that put DART on a exact path to Didymos. Then, inside about 24 hours of affect, DART will take management to fine-tune its closing strategy.
“Seeing the DRACO images of Didymos for the first time, we can iron out the best settings for DRACO and fine-tune the software,” Julie Bellerose, the DART navigation lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, stated in the identical assertion. “In September, we’ll refine where DART is aiming by getting a more precise determination of Didymos’ location.”
Since capturing these photos, DRACO has checked in on Didymos three extra instances.
DART will affect Dimorphos on Sept. 26 at 7:14 p.m. EDT (2314 GMT) — you possibly can watch protection of the occasion at Space.com courtesy of NASA TV or straight by the company’s web site.
Originally revealed on Space.com.