NASA’s Lucy spacecraft, on its mission to explore the Jupiter Trojan asteroids, has made an exciting discovery during its recent flyby of the asteroid Dinkinesh. The flyby was conducted as a test of the spacecraft’s tracking abilities and served as a preview of its ultimate goal.
During the flyby, Lucy found that Dinkinesh is not just a single asteroid, but a binary system consisting of two bodies. This marks the first time that Lucy has encountered such a binary pair. The larger body of Dinkinesh measures approximately 0.5 miles wide, while the smaller body is about 0.15 miles in size.
In addition to the discovery, the flyby also allowed scientists to test the spacecraft’s terminal tracking system. This system enables Lucy to autonomously track an asteroid as it passes by at an incredible speed of 10,000 mph. Despite the more challenging target, the terminal tracking system performed flawlessly, confirming its effectiveness.
The data collected during the flyby is crucial in providing insights into the nature of small asteroids. Scientists are currently in the process of analyzing the data and comparing it to previous asteroid encounters to further enhance their knowledge of these celestial objects.
Furthermore, the remaining data collected from the flyby will be downloaded from the spacecraft in approximately a week. This data will assist the team in evaluating the behavior of the spacecraft, ensuring its optimal performance for the next asteroid encounter, scheduled for 2025.
Excitement and anticipation surround the next phase of Lucy’s mission, as it is set to embark on its exploration of the Jupiter Trojan asteroids starting in 2027. With each new discovery and successful flyby, Lucy brings us closer to unraveling the mysteries of our solar system’s distant neighbors. Stay tuned for more updates as Lucy continues its extraordinary journey through space.
“Social media scholar. Reader. Zombieaholic. Hardcore music maven. Web fanatic. Coffee practitioner. Explorer.”