NASA’s Lucy spacecraft made a visit to a small asteroid near Cape Canaveral, Florida, and discovered a surprising discovery for researchers.
It turns out that the asteroid Dinkinesh has a dinky sidekick — a mini moon.
The discovery was made during Wednesday’s flyby of Dinkinesh, 300 million miles (480 million kilometers) away in the main asteroid belt beyond Mars. The spacecraft snapped a picture of the pair when it was about 270 miles out (435 kilometers).
The spacecraft has transmitted data and images, revealing that Dinkinesh has a diameter of only 790 meters. Its accompanying moon is even smaller, measuring just 220 meters across.
NASA launched the spacecraft Lucy in 2021 as a practice run for encountering larger and more enigmatic asteroids near Jupiter. In 2027, Lucy will reach the first of these objects, known as Trojan asteroids, and spend at least six years studying them. The initial list of seven asteroids to be studied has now been expanded to eleven.
The word Dinkinesh translates to “you are marvelous” in the Amharic dialect spoken in Ethiopia. It is also the name given in Amharic to Lucy, the fossilized remains of a human ancestor discovered in Ethiopia in the 1970s, which inspired the name of the spacecraft.
“Dinkinesh really did live up to its name; this is marvelous,” Southwest Research Institute’s Hal Levison, the lead scientist, said in a statement.
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