NASA’s Lucy spacecraft, which launched in October 2021 to survey Jupiter’s asteroids, snapped a photo of a smaller asteroid near Mars last week that gave scientists a shocking surprise.
The asteroid Lucy took a picture of is called Dinkinesh, and it turns out the space rock has a fuzzy moon orbiting it.
The Associated Press reported that the discovery was made when Lucy conducted a flyby alongside Dinkins in Mar’s main asteroid belt, nearly 300 million miles away.
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The photo was reportedly taken when Lucy was 270 miles away from Dinkins and then sent the data and images back to earth.
The findings included the size of Dinkinesh, which was only half a mile in diameter, and its tiny moon, about a tenth of a mile across.
The mission to take pictures of Dinkinesh was a rehearsal for a much bigger mission, which is to look at the mysterious asteroids near Jupiter.
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The 12-year mission, which launched on October 16, 2021, is the first mission to Jupiter’s asteroids.
Asteroids orbit the sun and are at the same distance as Jupiter.
Lucy is expected to reach the first of the so-called Trojan asteroids in 2027 and explore them for at least six years. What started as a list of seven asteroids to research has grown to 11.
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The name Dinkinesh means “you are wonderful” in the Amharic language of Ethiopia. It is also the Amharic name for Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old remains of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia in 19702, for whom the spacecraft is named.
“Dinkins really lived up to his name; that’s wonderful,” said Hal Levison, chief scientist at the Southwest Research Institute.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.