CAPE CANAVERAL (AP) – The little asteroid visited by National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Lucy spacecraft this week had a big surprise for scientists. It turns out that the asteroid Dinkinesh has a dinky sidekick – a mini moon.
The discovery was made during Wednesday’s flyby of Dinkinesh, 480 million kilometres away in the main asteroid belt beyond Mars. The spacecraft snapped a picture of the pair when it was about 435 kilometres out.
In data and images beamed back to Earth, the spacecraft confirmed that Dinkinesh is barely 790 metres across. Its closely circling moon is a mere 220 metres in size.
Launched in 2021, the spacecraft will reach the first of these so-called Trojan asteroids in 2027 and explore them for at least six years. The original target list of seven asteroids now stands at 11.