After two weeks of launching, NASA’s DART captured and sent back the first image of its surrounding environment. The image shows about a dozen stars, crystal-clear and sharp against the black backdrop of space, near where the constellations Perseus, Aries, and Taurus intersect.
This is a significant operational milestone for the spacecraft and DART team.
On Tuesday, Dec. 7, the DRACO telescopic camera on DART snapped the first image of its surrounding environment.
Using stars in the image, the DART navigation team determined precisely how DRACO was oriented, providing the first measurements of how the camera is pointed relative to the spacecraft. With those measurements in hand, the DART team could accurately move the spacecraft to point DRACO at objects of interest, such as Messier 38 (M38), also known as the Starfish Cluster, that DART captured in another image on Dec. 10.
Capturing images with many stars like M38 helps the scientists characterize optical imperfections in the images and calibrate how bright an object is.
As DART’s only instrument, DRACO will capture images of Didymos and its moonlet asteroid Dimorphous. It will support the spacecraft’s autonomous guidance system to direct DART to its final kinetic impact.