that of NASAmission launched in November and has a long journey to go as it targets its ultimate goal of crashing into a moon around an asteroid in late 2022. That spends some of that time taking tourist photos along the way.
NASA released the first images of DART from space on Wednesday, calling it “a major operational milestone for the spacecraft and the DART team.”
The images come from the Draco telescopic camera of the spacecraft. DART opened the camera cover on December 7 and – much to the delight of scientists concerned about the camera being jostled during launch – the camera performed extremely well.
“Taken about 2 million miles (11 light seconds) from Earth – very close, astronomically speaking – the image shows about a dozen stars, clear and crisp against the black background of space, near l ‘place where the constellations Perseus, Aries and Taurus intersect,’ said NASA.
The December 7 image isn’t flashy, but it does make a lot of sense for the mission. This helped the DART team orient the spacecraft and camera to capture interesting sights. This is good preparation for when DART reaches the asteroid Didymos and its moon Dimorphos.
NASA shared another DART image from December 10 that shows a set of stars in Messier 38, known as the M38 or Starfish Cluster.
“Intentionally capturing images with many stars like M38 helps the team characterize optical imperfections in images as well as calibrate the absolute brightness of an object – all of the details important for accurate measurements when Draco starts imaging the image. destination of the spacecraft, the Didymos binary asteroid system, “the agency said.
DART is NASA’s first planetary defense mission. It will test the idea that a spacecraft could push a potentially dangerous asteroid and change its course enough to protect Earth from the impact. Didymos and Dimorphos are not a threat to Earth, but are a perfect target for this experiment.
With DART’s “eye” open, we can expect more space shots of the courageous mission.