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Where’s Lucy Going? Studying Asteroid Mission Targets

16 Jan 2019, 13:00 UTC
Where’s Lucy Going? Studying Asteroid Mission Targets
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Title: Light Curves of Lucy Targets: Leucus and PolymeleAuthors: Marc W. Buie, Amanda M. Zangari, Simone Marchi, Harold F. Levison, Stefano MottolaFirst Author’s Institution: Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, CO, USAStatus: Published in The Astronomical Journal [closed access]Artist’s conception of the Lucy mission. Photo credit: NASAAsteroids, meteoroids, meteors, meteorites. Usually when we talk about these small chunks of debris and rock in the solar system, it’s about another possible apocalypse scenario. Studies of rocky objects that may pass near Earth’s orbit (Near Earth Objects, or NEOs) are of obvious importance for the safety of humanity, but they are only one minor subset of the small bodies in our solar system. Most of the asteroids in our neighborhood live in the Asteroid Belt, a region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and are referred to as “main belt asteroids”. There are also large populations trailing Jupiter in its orbit (the Trojan asteroids) and floating out in the outer solar system near Neptune (the Centaur asteroids).

But apart from the potential threat posed by NEOs, why study these plentiful, seemingly uninteresting hunks of rock and metal that we will likely never encounter on Earth? It turns out that they actually serve as ...

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