View larger. | Astronomers captured these images of asteroid 216 Kleopatra, the dog-bone asteroid, at different times between 2017 and 2019. They released this composite on September 9, 2021. The images show how we see different angles of Kleopatra’s dog-bone shape as the asteroid rotates. Image via ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.
216 Kleopatra – aka the dog-bone asteroid – might paws-ibly be the cutest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It was one of the earliest asteroids to be discovered, in 1880. But astronomers labeled it as a dog-bone 20 years ago, when radar observations at Arecibo Observatory revealed its two lobes and thick “neck.” Astronomer Franck Marchis of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, led the team that captured the sharpest and most detailed images yet of Kleopatra (above).
The European Southern Observatory released the images this week (September 9, 2021) and said the new observations caused astronomers to realize this fetching asteroid is a little ruff around the edges. It may be nothing more than a big rubble pile that’s lost some of its pebbles, but gained two moons.
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