NASA spacecraft captures one of the brightest stars in night sky
DART is the world's first planetary defense test mission dedicated to investigating and demonstrating one method of asteroid deflection by changing an asteroid's motion in space through kinetic impact
Late last month, the high-resolution camera onboard NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft snapped Vega, one of the brightest stars in the night sky and one of the solar system's closest neighbours at just 25 light-years.
In this black and white image captured by the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation (DRACO), a distinctly bright spot is visible in the distance. The six spikes around Vega result from light bouncing off of the structure that holds the camera's second mirror in place.
"We specifically wanted something bright, and Vega is bright. We're taking a series of images and looking for light that could scatter off parts of the camera and end up where it shouldn't be. We're doing both long and short exposures to get different measures of what the scattered light can be," said DRACO instrument scientist Carolyn Ernst of APL.
DRACO, the camera on #DARTMission, imaged Vega, one of the brightest stars in the night sky! DRACO will continue taking images for @JHUAPL to ensure it is optimally calibrated and ready for when DART sets its sights on its asteroid target in Sept.More: https://t.co/Dyr9VoDU5l pic.twitter.com/Ruhnd35RA6— NASA Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) June 17, 2022
DART is the world's first planetary defense test mission dedicated to investigating and demonstrating one method of asteroid deflection by changing an asteroid's motion in space through kinetic impact. The mission lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, in November 2021 and will reach its target on September 26, 2022
The mission's target is the binary, near-Earth asteroid system Didymos, and its small moonlet Dimorphous. The two asteroids pose no threat to Earth, but because they do pass close to the Earth, they were chosen as the target for this mission. DART will impact Dimorphos to change its orbit within the binary system.
According to NASA, this asteroid system is a perfect testing ground to see if intentionally crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid is an effective way to change its course, should an Earth-threatening asteroid be discovered in the future.