The smallest of the asteroids was not alone: ​​they found their own moon

In the spring of 2022, on March 27, the scientific team of NASA's Lucy mission discovered a satellite near the asteroid Polymela. it

the smallest of the Trojan probe targets.Initially, scientists planned to observe the transit of Polymela in front of a star. A total of 26 teams of professional and amateur astronomers observed the path of the asteroid. NASA prepared to measure the location, size, and shape of Polymela with unprecedented precision.

“A total of 14 teams reportedwatching a star twinkle as an asteroid passed in front of it. But when we analyzed the data, it turned out that two observations were different from the rest, explains Mark Buey, head of Lucy research at the Southwestern Research Institute. Two astronomers have discovered an object about 200 km from Polymela. Looks like it was a satellite."

Graph showing the observed separation of the asteroid Polymela from its discovered moon.
Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Using transit data, scientists realized thatThe moon is about 5 km in diameter and orbits Polymela. The diameter of the asteroid is 27 km along the widest axis. The observed distance between the two bodies was about 200 km. Under an international agreement, the satellite will not be given an official name until researchers determine its exact orbit.

Using data from the eclipse, scientists have estimated the diameter of the moon of the asteroid Polymela.
Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The satellite is too close to Polimela,so that it can be clearly observed in ground-based or near-Earth telescopes - without the help of a star in the background. Therefore, when it will be called is unknown. It may not happen before 2027. That's when "Lucy" will approach the asteroid. At the time of observation, it was at a distance of 770 million km from the Earth.

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