The visit of the “Lucy” probe to the asteroid Dinkinesh continues to arouse enthusiasm. Researchers carried out an observation on the newly discovered moon.
Washington DC – When NASA’s space probe “Lucy” flew past the asteroid Dinkinesh a few days ago, it had a surprise for researchers on Earth: a small moon orbits around the asteroid. Now more data has been downloaded from the space probe and the NASA research team has made another surprising discovery: the little moon is actually made up of two small celestial bodies.
Or more precisely: a so-called “contact binary” orbits the asteroid Dinkinesh. These are two objects touching each other. “Binary contacts appear to be quite common in the solar system,” explains John Spencer, deputy project scientist for the Lucy mission. “We haven’t seen many of them up close, and we’ve never seen a contact binary orbiting an asteroid,” Spencer said in a NASA statement.
NASA’s “Lucy” probe flies past an asteroid: it has an unusual companion
In fact, shortly before visiting Dinkinesh, researchers on the “Lucy” mission suspected that the asteroid might have a moon. “But we never suspected anything so bizarre,” Spencer points out. The Dinkinesh flyby was actually planned as a test for the space probe: Are all the instruments working as they should? Will “Lucy” be able to autonomously follow an asteroid that is flying over it at 16,000 kilometers per hour? NASA is satisfied with the test results.
Even though asteroid Dinkinesh and its contact binary moon are already far behind the spacecraft, enthusiasm for the search has not waned: “It’s disconcerting to say the least,” said Hal Levison, lead researcher on “Lucy “. “I never expected such a system. Above all, I don’t understand why the two components of the satellite have similar dimensions. It will be a lot of fun for the scientific community to find out.”
|Dinkinesh (+ Companion)|
|3548 Eurybates and the Queta satellite|
|15094 Polymele and the Shuan satellite|
|617 Patroclus and Menoetius|
The “Lucy” space probe entrusts research with an exciting task
Tom Statler, program scientist “Lucy”, is enthusiastic about the task: “It’s really wonderful when nature surprises us with a new mystery. Great science forces us to ask questions we didn’t know we needed to ask.”
The “Lucy” space probe continues to fly in space and in the coming years will examine several asteroids in the orbit of the planet Jupiter (the so-called Jupiter Trojans). Meanwhile, NASA scientists are downloading more data from “Lucy’s” visit to the asteroid Dinkinesh. It cannot be ruled out that further surprises await the researchers. (form)