It was a big day for NASA’s Psyche spacecraft on December 4, the day the probe finally opened its eyes to the universe.
since release above a SpaceX Falcon Heavy In fact, the Psyche rocket was traveling across the universe in the dark, as scientists had not yet turned on the spacecraft’s solar-winged cameras. She is now on her way to study asteroid upon which it is named, 16 Psyche, which lies somewhere among our fellows Solar System Planets Mars and Jupiter. In short, this space rock is of great interest to planetary researchers because it is thought to have almost formed completely Metals, especially iron and nickel.
This is a very big deal because these are the specific minerals that are in them Earth’s coreWhich means that 16 Psyche somehow offers us a roundabout way to analyze the center of our planet, something we cannot do directly. On December 5, the mission team announced that on its way to Psyche 16, it would… spirit The spacecraft’s imaging instrument (an array of dual cameras) has officially captured its first space photo.
What you see above is a mosaic of raw data collected by the rover on December 4, showing a wealth of data stars Visible from Psyche’s point of view. “Raw data” simply means that background noise in the image such as extraneous light signals has not been extracted, but the team says they will be working on such fine-tuning in the coming days.
As with most images taken from a space-borne lens, this one is called “first light” of Psyche.
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“These initial images are just a curtain-raiser,” said Jim Bell of Arizona State University, leader of the psycho-imaging instrument. He said in a statement. “For the team that designed and operates this cutting-edge instrument, first light is exciting.”
As Bell explains, the team will use images of stars like these to test how the Psyche Imager works in preparation for 2026, when the spacecraft will flyby Mars and hopefully capture some stunning views of the Red Planet. “Finally, in 2029, we will get the most exciting images yet – of the target asteroid Psyche,” Bell said. “We look forward to sharing all of these images with the public.”
If you’re wondering about some of the image specifications, the image itself is actually made up of a total of 68 separate images, all of which encapsulate objects in the constellation Pisces simply because that’s where the cameras were pointing when they were turned on. The brightest star is called Mu Pisces with a magnitude of 4.9 and the other stars on the horizon have a magnitude between 7 and 9.
For the context of the magnitude system, something with magnitude 0 is 100 times brighter than something with magnitude 5. The full moon has a magnitude of -12.6 as seen from Earth, and the brightest satellite in the night sky, Bluewalker 3, has reached a peak magnitude of 0.4 (as you might imagine, Astronomers aren’t too happy about that last part.)
Furthermore, the team says the field of view is about 8 degrees wide and 3.5 degrees high. Of the two cameras, aptly named “Imager A” and “Imager B,” A took the left half of the mosaic while B took the right half. By taking a set of images like this, and then calibrating accordingly, the Psyche team wants to proactively arm the spacecraft with the right settings before it captures data about its asteroid target. When imaging 16 Psyche, scientists say they will build 3D maps of visible and invisible wavelengths emanating from the object.
Among other achievements, Psyche’s innovative Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) device also received its first Optical Medal last month, sending a laser signal to Earth from nearly 10 million miles away. Now, the team is looking forward to the week of December 11, when the instrument’s neutron-detecting sensors, intended to dissect the chemical composition of 16 Psyche — arguably the mission’s main drum roll — will begin beeping in the distance as well.
Talk soon, psychic.
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