NASA's Lucy spacecraft is on a 6-billion-kilometer journey to explore Jupiter's Trojan asteroids. According to NASA, the Lucy is preparing for its first close-up view of a Dinkinesh asteroid that will happen on November 1. Even with the greatest telescopes, the asteroid has been unresolved until this point.
The Dinkinesh asteroid is about a kilometre wide and orbits the Sun in the main belt of asteroids between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Since September 3, Dinkinesh has been visually tracked by the mission, and it will be Lucy's first stop on its 12-year voyage. As Lucy will not halt or orbit the asteroid, it can observe a lot. Instead, it will collect as much data as possible while flying by them.
The Lucy mission was launched by NASA on October 16, 2021, to observe the Jupiter Trojan asteroid. This refers to the massive group of minor bodies that orbit the Sun in two swarms. Lucy has been heading into the outer solar system at a pace of around 19.4 kilometres per second since her launch in October 2021. One of the swarms leads Jupiter in its orbit, while the other follows after the gas giant. But firstly, today, Lucy will travel by Dinkinesh and Donald Johnson, another asteroid in the main belt.
The Dinkinesh encounter is meant to put Lucy's systems to the test. This means that scientific observations will be more easy than for the core mission objectives. The spacecraft and the platform that houses its equipment will move into position two hours before the near encounter. Once in position, the spacecraft's thermal-infrared camera (L'TES) and high-resolution camera (L'LORRI) will begin assembling data. For about an hour more, Dinkinesh will be continuously imaged and tracked by Lucy.