Actually, Lucy zoomed past two space rocks, for the probe found that Dinkinesh (whose name means “marvelous” in the Amharic language) is actually part of a binary system. The discovery added another layer of excitement to an already-historic encounter.
“We knew this was going to be the smallest main belt asteroid ever seen up close,” Keith Noll, Lucy project scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in a statement today (Nov. 2).
“The fact that it is two makes it even more exciting. In some ways, these asteroids look similar to the near-Earth asteroid binary Didymos and Dimorphos that DART saw, but there are some really interesting differences that we will be investigating,” Noll added, referring to NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission, which slammed intentionally into the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos in September 2022.
Lucy launched in October 2021 on a mission to fly by a half-dozen Trojan asteroids, space rocks that loop around the sun in Jupiter‘s orbit. These asteroids are relics from the solar system’s early days, so Lucy’s observations will shed light on the formation and evolution of our cosmic neighborhood, NASA officials say.
Dinkinesh is not a Trojan, but Wednesday’s flyby was still…
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