Newly released images from the first asteroid flyby by NASA’s Lucy spacecraft reveal: Dinkinesh is actually a binary pair. Binary asteroid pairs include A larger host asteroid and smaller satellites orbiting it. In the weeks leading up to the flyby, Lucy’s team wondered if Dinkinesh was actually a binary star system, as Lucy’s instruments detected the asteroid’s brightness changing over time. This is a sign that something is blocking the light, perhaps an object orbiting the main rock of the universe.
[Related: NASA spacecraft Lucy says hello to ‘Dinky’ asteroid on far-flying mission.]
From a preliminary analysis of the first available images, the research team estimates that the largest asteroid object has a maximum width of about 0.5 miles, and the smaller dwarf objects are about 0.25 miles in size.
Dinkinesh is another name for the Lucy fossil from which this mission is named. Skeletal remains of a 3.2 million-year-old human ancestor were discovered in Ethiopia in 1974. The name Dinkinesh means “great” in ancient Greek. Amharic.
“Dinkinesh really lived up to its name, which is amazing,” said Lucy principal investigator Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute. stated in a statement. “When Lucy was first selected for flight, we planned to fly by his seven asteroids. With the addition of Dinkinesh, the two Trojans, and now the moon, we We increased that to 11.”
The Nov. 1 encounter primarily served as a flight test for a spacecraft investigating the asteroid. In particular, they focused on testing a system that could autonomously track an asteroid flying at 10,000 miles per hour. The research team calls this a device tracking system.
“This is an amazing series of images. They show that our terminal tracking system worked as intended, even when space presented a more difficult target than we expected.”Lockheed – said Tom Kennedy, Martin’s guidance and navigation engineer. stated in a statement. “Simulating, testing, practicing is one thing. Seeing it actually happen is quite another.”
it is It will take about a week The remaining data from the flyby will be downloaded to Earth. Although this week’s encounter was conducted as an engineering test, the team’s scientists hope the data will help glean insight into the nature of small asteroids.
“We knew this would be the smallest main-belt asteroid ever seen up close,” said Keith Knoll, NASA Lucy project scientist. stated in a statement. “The fact that it’s two makes it even more exciting. In some ways, these asteroids are similar to the near-Earth asteroid binary Didymos and Dimorphos that DART observed, but with very interesting differences. There are several issues that we plan to investigate in the future.”
[Related: Why scientists are studying the clouds of debris left in DART’s wake.]
The Lucy team plans to use this first flyby data to assess the spacecraft’s behavior and prepare for its next close-up look at the asteroid.this The next encounter is scheduled for April 2025, when Lucy is expected to fly by main-belt asteroid 52246 Donald Johansson. The asteroid is named after American paleoanthropologist Donald Johnson, one of the scientists who discovered Lucy’s fossils.
NASA’s Lucy mission, launched in October 2021, is the first spacecraft set to explore the Trojan asteroid. This group of primitive space rocks orbits Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. They orbit her in two swarms, one ahead of Jupiter and one behind.
There is There are approximately 7,000 asteroids in this belt., the largest asteroid is estimated to be about 160 miles in diameter. Asteroids are similar to fossils and represent the remnants still left after the formation of giant planets such as Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune.
Lucy then travels to the main Trojan asteroid complex. The spacecraft will then pass by six of her Trojan asteroids, including binary asteroids like Dinkinesh. Eurybates and its satellites Queta, Polimere, and as yet unnamed satellite Leukas, Oras.
In 2030, Lucy returns to Earth in preparation for yet another collision and a subsequent rendezvous with the Patroclus-Menoetius binary asteroid pair in the Trojan asteroid group. The plan for this mission is Reach a conclusion in 2033.