The Lucy probe’s discovery is, technically, a binary asteroid pair: a small asteroid that has another asteroid in its orbit. Dinky, actually called Dinkenish, and its moon were discovered during a flyby of Lucy. “The duo was definitely a possibility. We detected it,” says Jessica Sunshine, a planetary scientist at the University of Maryland. “But we didn’t expect it. It’s really cool.”
The team did not expect to make any discoveries from this flyby, as the maneuver was intended to serve as a test before moving on to final flights to better explore the Trojan asteroids, in orbit around the Sun and near Jupiter. The researchers wanted to know if Lucy could track very fast-moving objects and concluded that she could.
Regarding Dinky and its moon, NASA has already revealed some images and hopes to conduct a full investigation once more data is received. At this point, only a third of the information collected has been transmitted to our planet Engadget.
Hal Levinson, a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute and commander of the Loxi mission, confirms that there are more images that will be released and that the shape of the second asteroid is “really strange.” Researchers estimate that about 15% of near-Earth asteroids are accompanied by a small asteroid.
Lucy will continue her mission and should contact Jupiter Trojan in 2025.
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