National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
Facebook Twitter YouTube Facebook Twitter YouTube Flickr iTunes
Follow Us
Navigation
Launch Vehicle  |  Flight System  |  Flyby Spacecraft  |  Impactor 
Instruments  |  Targeting  |  Navigation  |  Deep Space Network 

Technology - Navigation - The Plan

Starry Starry Night

The stars used to navigate our spacecraft are numerous and mostly faint and unremarkable, except of course to the navigation team. We do however, use bright stars to calibrate our camera and IR spectrometer and some of them are familiar to the night sky observer and can be seen without a telescope.

Our bright calibration stars include Vega (a Lyrae), the 5th brightest star in the sky, Achernar (a Eridini), the 9th brightest, and Canopus (a Carina) the second brightest after Sirius. Canopus is best observed from the Southern Hemisphere, but it can also be seen from the southern US.

How do we calibrate? We observe these well-studied stars of known brightness. We then can place the data numbers produced by the instruments on a scale that represents the energy emitted by the stars.

The imaging cameras also look at star clusters to determine the extent of any geometric distortion introduced by the camera optics and the structures on which they are mounted. We plan to observe some of the Messier Objects to determine the degree of geometric distortion that exists in the cameras under the cold conditions of space. Currently on our target list are four star clusters including: M11, in the constellation Scutum, M48, an open cluster in Hydra, M29, an open cluster in Cygnus and M41, an open cluster in Canis Major. Distortion corrections are important to arrive at an accurate measurement of the size and shape of the comet and the crater formed by the impactor spacecraft.

Lucy McFadden, University of Maryland

Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writer: Autumn Burdick
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> USA.gov
> ExpectMore.gov
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 28 Jun 2010