Moon found out about the asteroid Polymily by NASA’s Lucy staff

even ahead of publication In October 2021,[{” attribute=””>NASA’s Lucy mission was already on course to break records by visiting more asteroids than any previous mission. Now, the mission can add one more asteroid to the list, after a surprise result from a long-running observation campaign.

Lucy’s science team discovered on March 27 that the smallest of the mission’s Trojan asteroid targets, Polymele, has a satellite of its own. On that day, Polymele was expected to pass in front of a star. This would allow the team to observe the star blink out as the asteroid briefly blocked, or occulted, it. The Lucy team planned to measure the location, size, and shape of Polymele with unprecedented precision while it was outlined by the star behind it. To do so, they spread 26 teams of professional and amateur astronomers across the path where the occultation would be visible.

Asteroid Polymele

A graphic showing the observed separation of asteroid Polymele from its discovered satellite. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

These occultation campaigns have been enormously successful in the past, providing valuable information to the mission on its asteroid targets, but this day would hold a special bonus.

We were thrilled that 14 teams reported observing the star blink out as it passed behind the asteroid. However, as we analyzed the data, we saw that two of the observations were not like the others,” said Marc Buie, Lucy occultation science lead at the Southwest Research Institute, which is headquartered in San Antonio. “Those two observers detected an object around 200 km (about 124 miles) away from Polymele. It had to be a satellite.”

Trojan Asteroid Polymele and SatelliteTrojan Asteroid Polymele and Satellite

A graphic showing the observed separation of asteroid Polymele from its discovered satellite. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Using the occultation data, the scientists determined that this satellite is roughly 3 miles (5 km) in diameter, orbiting Polymele, which is itself around 17 miles (27 km) along its widest axis. The observed distance between the two bodies was approximately 125 miles (200 km).

Following planetary naming conventions, the satellite will not be issued an official name until the team can determine its orbit. As the satellite is too close to Polymele to be clearly seen by Earth-based or Earth-orbiting telescopes – without the help of a fortuitously positioned star – that determination will have to wait until Lucy approaches the asteroid in 2027, unless the team gets lucky with future occultation attempts before then.

At the time of the observation, Polymele was 480 million miles (770 million km) from Earth. Those distances are roughly equivalent to finding a quarter on a sidewalk in Los Angeles – while trying to spot it from a skyscraper thousands of miles away in Manhattan.

Satellite Orbiting PolymeleSatellite Orbiting Polymele

Using the occultation data, the team assessed that this satellite is roughly 3 miles (5 km) in diameter, orbiting Polymele, which is itself around 17 miles (27 km) along its widest axis. The observed distance between the two bodies was about 125 miles (200 km). Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Asteroids hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system – perhaps even the origins of life. Solving these mysteries is a high priority for NASA. The Lucy team originally planned to visit one main belt asteroid and six Trojan asteroids, a previously unexplored population of asteroids that lead and follow <span class="glossaryLink" aria-describedby="tt" data-cmtooltip="

Jupiter
Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system and the fifth planet from the sun. It is a gas giant with a mass greater then all of the other planets combined. Its name comes from the Roman god Jupiter.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{” attribute=””>Jupiter in its orbit around the Sun. In January of 2021, the team used the Hubble Space Telescope to discover that one of the Trojan asteroids, Eurybates, has a small satellite. Now with this new satellite, Lucy is on track to visit nine asteroids on this remarkable 12-year voyage.

“Lucy’s tagline started out: 12 years, seven asteroids, one spacecraft,” said Lucy program scientist Tom Statler at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We keep having to change the tagline for this mission, but that’s a good problem to have.”

https://www.youtube.com/view?v=H7CA9ZifNRI

On January 9, 2020, the Lucy mission formally announced that it would go to not 7, but 8 asteroids. It turns out that Eurybates, a person of the asteroids together Lucy’s route, has a modest satellite. Soon just after Lucy’s crew uncovered the satellite, she and Euribates moved at the rear of the sunlight, stopping the group from observing it further more. However, the asteroid emerged from behind the sunshine in July 2020 and considering that then Lucy’s team has been in a position to observe the satellites with Hubble on a number of situations, enabling the group to precisely decide the satellite’s orbit and at some point allowing for obtain to compact satellites. Formal name – Quetta.

Principal investigator Lucy operates in Boulder, Colorado, a department of the Southwest Exploration Institute, which is centered in San Antonio, Texas. NASA’s Goddard House Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland offers complete mission management, techniques engineering, security, and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin House Company of Littleton, Colorado developed the spacecraft. Lucy is the thirteenth mission of NASA’s Discovery Method. NASA’s Marshall Room Flight Heart in Huntsville, Alabama manages the discovery system for the way of the agency’s science mission in Washington.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.