On the way to the asteroid. The DART spacecraft took a picture of the bright star Vega (photo)
Specialists of the DART mission chose the brightest star in the constellation Lyra to test the operation of the camera of the device.< /p>
The team on Earth that controls the DART spacecraft decided to test its imaging system for bright light scattering. To do this, scientists from NASA pointed the camera at the bright stars that the device sees along the way to the asteroid Didim, according to Space.
A NASA spacecraft called DART went into space in November 2021 to change the flight path of the asteroid Dimorph, which is a satellite of the larger asteroid Didymos, in September 2022. NASA wants to use this device to test a new technology for deflecting asteroids from their path. Thus, scientists want to know whether, in the event of a potential danger to the Earth, such devices can be used to change the flight path of an asteroid that will fly towards our planet.
DART has an imaging system on board called DRACO. With the help of this camera, the device will film the upcoming change in the orbit of the asteroid Dimorph. And now scientists are calibrating this camera to get the best possible images.
The main goal of this phase of testing the camera performance was to find out how much stray light DRACO can capture. To do this, scientists chose the brightest stars, among which was the brightest star in the constellation Lyra – Vega.
Vega is the fifth brightest star in the Earth's night sky and the third brightest star after Arcturus and Sirius , which can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere. This star is about 25 light-years away.
By the way, Vega, together with the stars Deneb from the constellation Cygnus and Altair from the constellation Aquila, forms an asterism (an easily distinguishable group of stars in the sky), a triangle of three bright stars, which is known as the Summer-Autumn Triangle.
The DRACO camera took two pictures of Vega. In the first image, the star looks very bright and saturated. But in the second image, the star is completely invisible. Only her glow is visible here, although it looks just as good.
According to NASA officials, such test images, which are made by the DART camera, are necessary in order to make sure that it works optimally. After all, it will be used not only to capture the displacement of the asteroid, but also to navigate the device itself near the binary asteroid system.
In order to change the trajectory of the Dimorph asteroid, the device will collide with a space rock. Everything that happens will also be watched by a small satellite, which will separate from the main module in anticipation of the collision.
In 2024, the European Space Agency plans to send its spacecraft called Hera, which will study all the consequences of the collision, and the device also examines both astroids to get more information about their structure and chemical composition.
As Focus already wrote, the DART device has already sent back to Earth unique images of space that it took during its flight. In particular, the camera captured stars from the distant star cluster M 38.