Lucy Mission 16 Oct. 2022 flyby: an image
On 16 Oct. 2022, one year after launch, the Nasa’s Lucy probe had a spectacular flyby with the Earth. We imaged it 12 hours later and showed it in real-time to the world.
The image above comes from a single 120-second exposure, remotely taken with the “Elena” (PlaneWave 17″ + Paramount ME + SBIG STL-6303E) robotic unit available at Virtual Telescope. The telescope tracked Lucy’s apparent motion, this is why stars look like short trails while the probe is a sharp dot of light.
Taking that picture was not easy. The spacecraft was quickily leaving us and, after a minimum distance at the flyby time (16 Oct. 2022, 11:04 UTC) of about 350 km from the Earth’s surface, Lucy was already at 260.000 km (2/3 of the average lunar distance) from our telescope, so it looked quite faint (magnitude 15.5 or so). Furthermore, it was less than 25 deg. above the horizon, with some clouds there; a very bright Moon was in the very same spot of the sky, just 6 deg away from the probe. It is hard to have worse imaging conditions than those, but Lucy is there!
We also shared the view, in real-time, with many people from all around the planet. The live feed is available below:
In a couple of years, Lucy will be back again for another flyby, to gain more orbital energy for its journey to Jupiter’s trojan asteroids.
Godspeed, Lucy: let’s help us unveiling the secrets of our Solar System!
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