Earlier this month, NASA’s Lucy probe completed its first flyby of the asteroid Dinkinesh, discovering that it actually was part of a binary pair with a smaller asteroid satellite orbiting it. The probe, however, has now revealed more details about Dinkinesh. It isn’t just the larger asteroid that is part of a binary pair. Dinkinesh’s unanticipated satellite is actually a contact binary itself.
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According to a new post shared by NASA, the data captured by Lucy’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (L’LORRI), Dinkinesh’s smaller satellite is actually made up of two smaller objects touching each other. The reason that this wasn’t seen before, when the first satellite was discovered, is because the two asteroids were lined up perfectly, hiding one behind the other.
Contact binaries are relatively common within our solar system, John Spencer, Lucy’s deputy project scientist of the Boulder, Colorado branch of San Antonio’s Southwest Research Institute, shared in the NASA post. However, I don’t think anyone expected to find evidence of one during Lucy’s first flyby of an asteroid like Dinkinesh.
Spencer continued, “We haven’t seen many up-close, and we’ve never seen one orbiting another asteroid. We’d been puzzling over odd variations in Dinkinesh’s brightness that we saw on approach, which gave us a hint that Dinkinesh might have a moon of some sort, but we never suspected anything so bizarre!”
The discovery of this additional contact binary during Lucy’s Dinkinesh flyby is both exciting and puzzling. Scientists have already been confused as to why both satellite components are of similar size, and how they joined together. We’ll probably learn more about this in the future.
Lucy’s flyby of Dinkinesh was just the start, of course. It will continue to explore our solar system and collect data, including images of asteroids. This second image, which revealed a second satellite component, was captured approximately 960miles beyond the location of the first. It shows how crucial perspective is for the data that we collect about our universe.
The post Lucy discovers yet another surprise during Dinkinesh flyby appeared first on BGR.