An artist’s impression of the Lucy spacecraft passing by a Trojan asteroid during its 12-year mission. Recent observations by the Hubble Space Telescope show one of the seven asteroids Lucy will visit – Eurybates – has a small moon. Image: Southwest Research Institute
Less than two years before launch, scientists associated with NASA’s Lucy mission, led by Southwest Research Institute, have discovered an additional small asteroid that will be visited by the Lucy spacecraft. Set to launch in 2021, its 12-year journey of almost 4 billion miles will explore the Trojan asteroids, a population of ancient small bodies that share an orbit with Jupiter.
This first-ever mission to the Trojans was already going to break records by visiting seven asteroids during a single mission. Now, using data from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Lucy team discovered that the first Trojan target, Eurybates, has a satellite. This discovery provides an additional object for Lucy to study.
“If I had to bet that one of our destinations had a satellite, it would have been this one,” said SwRI’s Hal Levison, principal investigator of the mission. “Eurybates is considered the largest remnant of a giant collision that occurred billions of years ago. Simulations ...