NASA’s Lucy spacecraft passed the first asteroid and discovered a second asteroid at the same time. Lucy passed by the small asteroid Dinkinesh on November 1, and images sent back to Earth show that Dinkinesh has an even smaller space rock orbiting it, the smallest main-belt asteroid ever observed up close. It became clear that there was.
This finding was not entirely surprising. As Lucy approached Dinkinesh over the past few weeks, the asteroid’s brightness appeared to oscillate over time, often indicating the presence of some type of satellite. But Dinkinesh’s diameter is only about 790 meters (790 meters), making it impossible to spot the satellite from Earth, and until November 1, even spacecraft were too far away to see it clearly.
During a flyby on November 1, Lucy flew just 430 km (430 km) from Dinkinesh at speeds of about 16,000 km/h (16,000 km/h) and snapped photos as it passed. These photos reveal a second, smaller asteroid in the Dinkinesh binary, but this one is only about 220 meters in diameter.
“We knew this would be the smallest main-belt asteroid ever seen up close.” Keith Knoll at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. statement. “The fact that it’s two makes it even more exciting. In some ways, these asteroids are similar to near-Earth asteroids. Binary Didymus and Dimorpho [NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission] However, there are some very interesting differences that we will explore further. ”
The main purpose of the flyby was to test Lucy’s scientific equipment, particularly the system that keeps it on target as it passes by at high speed, and the fact that nothing is visible in these first images suggests that the tracking system is not properly aligned. It shows that it is functioning. The remaining data from the encounter will be transmitted to Earth over the next week or so for more thorough examination by the mission’s scientists and engineers.
Now that Lucy has passed Dinkinesh and its partner asteroid, its next target is asteroid 52246 Donald Johansson, where it plans to visit in 2025 before accelerating toward Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. The Trojan horse travels in front of and behind Jupiter as it orbits around the sun, and because it is likely a remnant left over from the formation of the solar system, it provides valuable insight into how the planet formed and evolved over time. May hold insights. Lucy she will reach the Trojans in 2027.