Lucy will take black-and-white and coloration photos, 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’s going to additionally accumulate 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 provide a definitive time line for not solely when the planets initially fashioned, however the place.
“In the event you can nail down when the Trojan asteroids fashioned, then you’ve got some details about when did Jupiter type, and may begin asking questions like ‘The place did Jupiter go within the photo voltaic system?’” she says. “As a result of it wasn’t at all times 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 greater than a soccer area.
“[The Trojans] haven’t had almost as a lot colliding and breaking as a few of the different asteroids which are nearer to us,” says Dodson-Robinson. “We’re doubtlessly getting a have a look at a few of these asteroids like they have 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 power to alter the spacecraft’s trajectory with out depleting its assets. Coralie Adam, deputy navigation workforce 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 could take 5 occasions the quantity of gasoline—or three metric tons—to achieve Lucy’s goal, which might make the mission unfeasible,” mentioned 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 will probably be a very good quantity of gasoline left onboard,” mentioned 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.”