NASA’s Lucy mission recently achieved a significant milestone as it captured its first close-up images of asteroids in our solar system. The purpose of the mission is to explore the Trojan asteroids, a group of celestial bodies that are trapped around Jupiter and are believed to be untouched remnants from the early formation of planets.
On its journey, the spacecraft had its initial encounter with an asteroid named Dinkinesh. Surprisingly, Dinkinesh turned out to be a binary asteroid, which means it consists of a smaller asteroid orbiting a larger one. This unexpected discovery was an exciting development for the mission.
During the encounter, Lucy was able to successfully track the distant objects at incredibly high speeds of 10,000 mph. The images captured by the spacecraft unveiled the two rocky asteroids, with the larger one being approximately half a mile across and the smaller one measuring 0.15 miles.
The Lucy mission is aptly named after the famous fossilized human skeleton, as it aims to investigate the Trojan asteroids, which are considered “fossils” from the early solar system. Understanding the composition, mass, and geologic history of these asteroids can potentially provide valuable insights into how Earth and other planets came into existence.
Each encounter with the Trojan asteroids will occur at a speed of around 10,000 mph, necessitating the mission team to meticulously observe and analyze their characteristics. By studying these celestial bodies, scientists hope to gain a better understanding of the formation of planets.
The next asteroid encounter for the Lucy spacecraft is scheduled for 2025, while the first Trojan encounter is expected to take place in 2027. These upcoming encounters are highly anticipated and will undoubtedly provide invaluable data for researchers.
The successful acquisition of close-up images of asteroids by the Lucy mission marks an important step in our exploration of the solar system’s history. With each new discovery, scientists inch closer to unraveling the mysteries surrounding the origins of our own planet and the celestial bodies that surround us.
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