It turns out that the smallest of the asteroids that NASA’s spacecraft Lucy plans to visit has a satellite.
The Lucy mission, launched by NASA to study Jupiter and the surrounding Trojan asteroids , began in October when the spacecraft left Earth. The spacecraft, which will encounter asteroids in 2025 , has already managed to surprise everyone with the data it has obtained .
Asteroids host smaller moons
Teams working with one of NASA’s newest spacecraft made an unexpected discovery years before it reached its final destination . It turned out that the smallest of the asteroids that the spacecraft plans to visit has a satellite.
On March 27, 2022, 26 different teams made observations around the world to study one of Lucy’s targets, the asteroid Polymele , as it passed in front of a star . Thus, observers who aimed to calculate the distance, size and shape of Polymele encountered an unexpected sight .
Some of the teams detected a celestial body about 200 km away from Polymele during this observation . Expressing that this object is a satellite, scientists calculated that the diameter of the satellite is 5 kilometers . By comparison, the asteroid Polymele is about 27 kilometers long at its widest point.
The discovery reveals that there may be moons even around very small asteroids . The Lucy team has encountered a similar incident before, but the frequent occurrence of this situation may cause the Lucy mission to progress differently than planned.
Images from the Hubble Space Telescope in January 2021 revealed that the Trojan asteroid Eurybates was also surrounded by a smaller satellite. After all these developments, Lucy’s job description, which set out with the slogan “12 years, 7 asteroids and 1 spacecraft “, seems to change as time progresses.