NASA Lucy spacecraft captures FIRST photos of its target, Jupiter trojan asteroids; Know what's next

The NASA Lucy spacecraft is headed for the Jupiter trojan asteroids. This is the first time it was able to capture photos of its targets which are located at three times the distance between Earth and the Sun.

| Updated on: Apr 22 2023, 15:38 IST
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1/6 Amazingly, currently, on Jupiter, there are auroras, storms, extreme temperatures and powerful winds stirring things up, according to NASA. The images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope could give scientists a look at the conditions of the gas giant. (NASA)
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2/6 Planetary astronomer Imke de Pater, professor emerita of the University of California, Berkeley said, “We hadn’t really expected it to be this good, to be honest. It’s really remarkable that we can see details on Jupiter together with its rings, tiny satellites, and even galaxies in one image.” (NASA)
James Webb Space Telescope
3/6 The images were captured by the telescope's Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument on July 27, which highlighted the planet's unique features. According to NASA, the NIRCam has three specialized infrared filters that showcase details of the planet. (AFP)
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6/6 Thierry Fouchet, a professor at the Paris Observatory, as part of an international collaboration for Webb’s Early Release Science program said, “This one image sums up the science of our Jupiter system program, which studies the dynamics and chemistry of Jupiter itself, its rings, and its satellite system.” (NASA/AFP)
NASA Lucy spacecraft
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NASA Lucy spacecraft was launched in October 2021. (NASA)

It has been one and a half years since one of the most ambitious missions of NASA, Lucy, took off for the largest planet in our solar system. The unmanned spacecraft was sent on a 12-year journey to ten different asteroids with a focus towards the Jupiter trojans, a large group of asteroids that share the planet Jupiter's orbit around the Sun. This is the first time NASA has conducted a mission to study these far-off asteroids. And recently, it took pictures of its target asteroids for the first time ever.

According to a report by, Lucy spacecraft is still around 550 million kilometers away from the trojan asteroids. That is roughly three times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Despite such a massive distance, it was able to take pictures of four of its eight targets, Eurybates, Polymele, Leucus, and Orus. The images were taken from L'LORI, the highest-resolution imager on the spacecraft.

Lucy sets its sight on the Jupiter trojan asteroids

NASA Lucy mission is historic for many reasons. But the most important among them is that, if successful, it will become the first spacecraft in history to visit so many different destinations in independent orbits around the sun.

The spacecraft will first make two flybys around the Earth to get the energy to reach six trojan asteroids between 2027 and 2028. They are Eurybates and its satellite Queta, Polymele and its moon, Leucus, and Orus.

After that, it will return to Earth for another gravity-assisted flyby that will give it the boost to visit a pair of gigantic asteroids called Patroclus-Menoetius. They are over 100 kilometers in width. In comparison, the largest asteroid from the first six is 68 kilometers in width.

The aim of this mission is to study the composition and structure of these asteroids. It is believed that they have been left untouched ever since the solar system was formed. As such, understanding them could help us understand how our very own planet was formed and transformed over a period of 4.6 billion years.

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First Published Date: 22 Apr, 15:37 IST