This NASA spacecraft is on its method to Jupiter’s mysterious asteroid swarms



Lucy will take black-and-white and shade photographs, and use a diamond beam splitter to shine far-infrared gentle on the asteroids to take their temperature and make maps of their floor. It’ll additionally acquire different measurements because it flies by. This knowledge may assist scientists perceive how the planets might have fashioned. Sarah Dodson-Robinson, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy on the College of Delaware, says Lucy may supply a definitive time line for not solely when the planets initially fashioned, however the place. “When you can nail down when the Trojan asteroids fashioned, then you might have some details about when did Jupiter kind, and might begin asking questions like ‘The place did Jupiter go within the photo voltaic system?’” she says. “As a result of it wasn’t all the time the place it’s now. It’s moved round.” And to find out the asteroids’ ages, the spacecraft will seek for floor craters which may be no larger than a soccer discipline.  “[The Trojans] haven’t had almost as a lot colliding and breaking as a number of the different asteroids which might be nearer to us,” says Dodson-Robinson. “We’re doubtlessly getting a take a look at a few of these asteroids like they had been shortly after they fashioned.” On its 4-billion-mile journey, Lucy will obtain three gravity assists from Earth, which can contain utilizing the planet’s gravitational drive to alter the spacecraft’s trajectory with out depleting its sources. Coralie Adam, deputy navigation staff chief for the Lucy mission, says every push will enhance the spacecraft’s velocity from 200 miles per hour to over 11,000 mph. “If not for this Earth gravity help, it will take 5 occasions the quantity of gas—or three metric tons—to succeed in Lucy’s goal, which might make the mission unfeasible,” stated Adam throughout an engineering media briefing additionally held on October 14. Lucy’s mission is slated to finish in 2033, however some NASA officers already really feel assured that the spacecraft will final far longer. “There can be a great quantity of gas left onboard,” stated Adam. “After the ultimate encounter with the binary asteroids, so long as the spacecraft is wholesome, we plan to suggest to NASA to do an prolonged mission and discover extra Trojans.”