NOV 07, 2018 4:31 PM PST

Near-Twin of New Horizons' Ralph Instrument to Study Jupiter's Trojan Asteroids

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

If you followed along when NASA’s New Horizons probe flew past Pluto in July 2015, then you probably remember all the stunning photographs taken of the dwarf planet before, during, and after the flyby. Behind the lens of these incredible photographs was NASA’s renowned Ralph instrument.

Given the profound successes of NASA’s Ralph instrument throughout the New Horizons mission, the American space agency will employ the Ralph instrument once more for its upcoming Lucy mission. Lucy is poised to launch in October 2021, and when it does, it will journey to the Jovian system to help astronomers learn more about Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.

An artist's rendition of the L'Ralph instrument on the Lucy spacecraft.

Image Credit: NASA

Lucy’s Ralph instrument will be a near-carbon copy of the original, apart from a few minor modifications for the new tasks at hand. The upgraded Ralph instrument warrants a new name, and so NASA is calling it L’Ralph, which is allegedly short for “Lucy Ralph.”

Just like the original Ralph instrument, L’Ralph will carry an instrument suite complete with the Multi-spectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) and the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA). As NASA explains, both instruments are fed by the same 6-centimeter aperture telescope, which enables L’Ralph to view things in both visible and infrared wavelengths and create a precise map of another world’s surface.

“Most instruments can image visible or infrared wavelengths, but L’Ralph can do both,” explained Dennis Reuter, the principal investigator for the L’Ralph instrument. “We fit everything into this one small package.”

Related: Japan just put two landers on an asteroid for science

Despite how compact the L’Ralph instrument is, don't underestimate it. L'Ralph utilizes a tried and true observation method called spectroscopy to distinguish unique signatures emitted by surface compounds on other worlds, such as ice and minerals to name a few; this is particularly handy for finding organic compounds to discern whether another world is potentially habitable or not.

In addition to the basics, L’Ralph sports a few upgrades that make it a more capable otherworldly observer than its predecessor. Among those, it can detect a broader spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, it sports a moving mirror that can adjust light reflections without repositioning the entire spacecraft, and it includes an improved infrared detector that can capture more than 7.8 times more detail.

As you can probably imagine from the circumstances, NASA’s somewhat excited to launch the upcoming Lucy mission, but it will require some patience. After Lucy reaches space, it’ll take 12 years to reach its destination; but once it arrives, NASA will have two Ralph instruments exploring ancient space rocks and unlocking the many mysteries surrounding the formation of the solar system.

It should be interesting to see what NASA discovers along the way.

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
APR 10, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Discovery on solar interstellar magnetic field
APR 10, 2020
Discovery on solar interstellar magnetic field
New information on the solar neighborhood has allowed researchers from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Un ...
JUN 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
SpaceX Reinforces Starlink Satellite Constellation with 60 New Units
JUN 07, 2020
SpaceX Reinforces Starlink Satellite Constellation with 60 New Units
It was only last weekend that SpaceX earned a round of applause from NASA after astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley s ...
JUN 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Astrophysicists Find Evidence of Nearby Planet that May Sustain Life
JUN 26, 2020
Astrophysicists Find Evidence of Nearby Planet that May Sustain Life
Researchers have found that a nearby red dwarf star, known as Gliese 887, may host three planets, one of which could sus ...
JUL 19, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Engineer Human Cartilage in Space
JUL 19, 2020
Scientists Engineer Human Cartilage in Space
Russian cosmonaut, Oleg Kononenko, has successfully carried out an experiment to engineer human cartilage in microgravit ...
JUL 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
How Do Astronauts Have Fun in Space?
JUL 20, 2020
How Do Astronauts Have Fun in Space?
Scientists who inhabit the International Space Station (ISS) typically have 12-hour shifts. These include two and a half ...
JUL 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Reveal the Biggest-Ever 3D Map of the Universe
JUL 26, 2020
Scientists Reveal the Biggest-Ever 3D Map of the Universe
After five years of research, an international team over 100 astrophysicists from around 30 institutions worldwide has r ...
Loading Comments...