NASA’s Lucy mission took the first images of Dinkinesh, the first of ten objects it will fly by in the main asteroid belt during its 12-year journey.
Lucy took two photos on September 2 and 5, 2023. On the left, the image flashes between these first two photos of Dinkinesh. At right, the asteroid is circled to help find it, NASA reports.
Lucy, which left Earth on October 16, 2021, took these images while 23 million kilometers from the asteroid, which is only 1 kilometer across. In the next two months, Lucy will continue to Dinkinesh until the closest 425 km on November 1, 2023.
The Lucy team will use this encounter as an opportunity to test the spacecraft’s systems and procedures, focusing on the spacecraft’s terminal tracking system, which is designed to keep the asteroid within instrument fields of view as the spacecraft passes through 4.5 km/s
Lucy will continue to image the asteroid in the coming months as part of its optical navigation program, which uses the asteroid’s apparent position against the stellar background to determine the relative position of Lucy and Dinkinesh and ensure a precise flyby. Dinkinesh will remain an unresolved point of light during long approach and will not begin to show surface detail until the day of rendezvous.
The brightest star in this scene is HD 34258, a magnitude 7.6 star in the constellation Auriga that is barely visible to the naked eye from Earth. At this distance, Dinkinesh is only magnitude 19, about 150,000 times fainter than the star. Celestial north is to the right of the chart, which is approximately 120,000 km.
The observations were made with Lucy’s high-resolution camera, the L’LORRI instrument (short for Lucy LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager).