Lucy sees the space probe that you expand the list again

In fact, the recently launched Lucy space probe should visit seven asteroids. But thanks to recent discoveries, there are now at least nine, NASA announced.

The Lucy space probe was announced years ago by the US space agency with a lot of drumming. The probe will break all records by visiting up to seven asteroids during a 12-year mission. They are: Donaldjohanson (a small space rock in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter), Trojans Eurybates, Polymele, Leucus, Orus, Patroclus and Menoetius. The US space agency has come up with an attractive slogan for it: 12 years, 7 asteroids, and 1 spacecraft. But NASA’s communications department has to get back to work, because that logo could go in the trash.

New observations reveal that Trojan Polymele is not alone. A slightly smaller space stone, or moon, orbits the small space stone. The moon is about 200 km from Polymele.

The moon was discovered earlier this year during a period of invisibility. In March, Polimel – seen from Earth – passed in front of a star. This gave researchers the opportunity to learn more about the space rock. For example, with the star in the background, it should be possible to determine the location, shape, and size of the Polymele with unparalleled accuracy. No wonder that on that day in March, researchers looked and tried to discover Polymele. At least fourteen research teams in various places on Earth have seen the star “blink” because Polemili blocked part of the light. “But when we analyzed the data, we found that two of these observations were different,” said researcher Mark Bowie. “During these two observations, an object was discovered 200 km from Polymele. It must have been a moon.”

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three kilometers
Then analysis of the data showed that this moon should have a diameter of about five kilometers. This means that the Moon isn’t big, but Polimel isn’t too big – which is about 27 kilometers long along its longest axis.

no name
Presently, the Moon will go through life without a name for a while; Only when researchers survey the orbit of the Polymele’s companion can it be officially named. However, due to the small distance between Polymele and the Moon, it is very difficult for telescopes on and near Earth to distinguish the two from each other and obtain an image of the Moon’s orbit around Polymele. So it looks like we’ll have to wait for Lucy to have Polymele and the moon in our sights. This will not be the case until 2027.

Space probe “Lucy” is headed for the Trojans. These are asteroids located in the same orbit as Jupiter. Some of these Trojans are advancing on Jupiter. Some move after the buyer. Lucy will study the Trojans from both squadrons. Photo: NASA.

With the discovery of the moon, the mission list of the Lucy space probe expands; The moon is an additional object that a spacecraft can investigate. This is not the first time. In January 2021 – about nine months before Lucy was released – I also found a moon around Eurybates, which has already expanded its seven planned destinations to eight. With the Polymele Moon there are now nine. “Lucy’s motto is: 12 years, 7 asteroids, 1 spacecraft,” said Tom Statler, on behalf of NASA. “And we keep changing that slogan, but that’s okay.”

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in the path
While NASA has to keep tweaking the logo, Lucy is already on her way; The spacecraft was launched in October. It is very special that while the task has already begun, another new object of study can be added to the list of objectives. However, it is not unique; For example, this also happened to the New Horizons space probe. Launched in 2006, it headed toward Pluto, which at the time was thought to have three moons: Charon, Nix, and Hydra. But then the Hubble Space Telescope discovered in 2011 and 2012 that there are two more moons: Kerberos and Styx. Then, New Horizons overtook Pluto and its five moons a few years later in 2015.

Scientists have high hopes for Lucy’s mission. The Trojans that Lucy will examine are likely leftovers of material that formed the outer planets of our solar system. So you can see them as time capsules that can give us insights into the conditions in which the solar system was formed 4 billion years ago and that reveal (organic) materials that were already found in the young solar system. So the mission is expected to yield a wealth of information about the history of our solar system and perhaps even the origin of organic matter – and eventually life – on Earth. It certainly won’t be about Lucy’s destinations. With two additional objects now, there is more than enough to see and study the probe.

Winton Frazier

 "Amateur web lover. Incurable travel nerd. Beer evangelist. Thinker. Internet expert. Explorer. Gamer."

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