#astronomy Lucy mission will get one other asteroid goal – a tiny moon – Astronomy Now

January 11, 2020 - Comment

An artist’s impression of the Lucy spacecraft passing by a Trojan asteroid throughout its 12-year mission. Latest observations by the Hubble Area Telescope present one of many seven asteroids Lucy will go to – Eurybates – has a small moon. Picture: Southwest Analysis Institute Lower than two years earlier than launch, scientists related to NASA’s



An artist’s impression of the Lucy spacecraft passing by a Trojan asteroid throughout its 12-year mission. Latest observations by the Hubble Area Telescope present one of many seven asteroids Lucy will go to – Eurybates – has a small moon. Picture: Southwest Analysis Institute

Lower than two years earlier than launch, scientists related to NASA’s Lucy mission, led by Southwest Analysis Institute, have found a further small asteroid that might be visited by the Lucy spacecraft. Set to launch in 2021, its 12-year journey of just about four billion miles will discover the Trojan asteroids, a inhabitants of historical small our bodies that share an orbit with Jupiter.

This primary-ever mission to the Trojans was already going to interrupt data by visiting seven asteroids throughout a single mission. Now, utilizing information from the Hubble Area Telescope, the Lucy crew found that the primary Trojan goal, Eurybates, has a satellite tv for pc. This discovery supplies a further object for Lucy to review.

“If I needed to wager that certainly one of our locations had a satellite tv for pc, it might have been this one,” stated SwRI’s Hal Levison, principal investigator of the mission. “Eurybates is taken into account the biggest remnant of an enormous collision that occurred billions of years in the past. Simulations present that asteroid collisions just like the one which made Eurybates and its household usually produce small satellites.”

This correlates with massive Kuiper Belt objects considered cousins to the Trojans, which present proof of each large collisions and small satellites.

“On the Lucy science crew assembly final November, my colleague Keith Noll identified a suspicious-looking spot subsequent to a picture of Eurybates. I rapidly downloaded the following set of information and realised that the spot was nonetheless there, nevertheless it had moved, identical to a satellite tv for pc would,” stated Caltech’s Mike Brown, a Lucy science crew member.

“We requested for extra HST time to verify the existence of the satellite tv for pc, and we got three tries,” stated Noll, Goddard Spaceflight Middle’s challenge scientist for the mission. “Within the first two observations, we didn’t see something, so we started to suppose we is perhaps unfortunate. However on the third orbit, there it was!”

The small object was tough to identify, partly, as a result of Eurybates is 6,000 instances brighter than its satellite tv for pc. This means that it’s lower than 1 km (zero.5 miles) throughout, which, if appropriate, would make it among the many smallest objects ever visited by a spacecraft.

“Earlier than we believed that it was truly actual, we needed to ensure that a single satellite tv for pc might truly match the entire information,” stated SwRI’s Cathy Olkin, deputy principal investigator of the Lucy mission. “Utilizing pc simulations, we demonstrated many doable satellite tv for pc orbits that match each the observations the place we are able to see the satellite tv for pc, in addition to the instances once we don’t.”

Whereas the present information are sufficient to verify the existence of the satellite tv for pc, the Lucy crew will gather extra HST information later this 12 months to higher perceive the item’s orbit.



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