NASA’s DART spacecraft – yes, the one that reminds us of the movie ‘Armageddon’ – has been built to fulfill a unique mission: to hit an asteroid to slightly change its trajectory. However, also has a high resolution camera, like the one installed in the New Horizons probe, which has given us the first images of its adventure through space.
According Explain the US space agency, on December 7, about 3.21 million kilometers from Earth (about 11 light seconds), the DART spacecraft activated its DRACO optical system and captured the first images of its surrounding environment. These show several stars, some lighter than others, against the dark background of space.
So close but at the same time so far: 11 light seconds from Earth
An image from December 7 shows a wide spatial region where the constellations of Perseus, Aries and Taurus. Another, captured on December 10, exhibits part of Messier 38, an open cluster in the constellation Auriga.
These images were used by NASA to, through the location of the stars, accurately determine the orientation of the DART spacecraft’s optical instruments, which will play a fundamental role in the impact mission against the asteroid.
While DRACO is a high resolution camera inspired by the imager from the New Horizons spacecraft of NASA, which among its captures produced the first close-up images of Pluto, the system is used in DART as an optical tool that will help the ship hit its target.
As we explained above, if all goes according to plan, the DART iIt will hit the asteroid Dimorphos in September or October 2022. And, before that event, it will also send images to Earth that will allow us to know what the rocky celestial body is like from a unique perspective.
Via | NASA