Asteroid Polymel may have its own natural satellite, say astronomers on NASA’s Lucy mission

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Astronomers working on US space agency NASA’s Lucy mission may have spotted an undiscovered small moon orbiting an asteroid in the Solar System. The mission is being led to study the Trojans – two groups of asteroids that orbit the Sun and are located on either side of Jupiter. On its way to the space rock, the Lucy probe spotted its smallest asteroid target, Polymel, which was expected to pass in front of the star. As the asteroid passed, it briefly blocked the star allowing astronomers to observe the star’s twinkling.

Soon, a team of NASA astronomers worked to gather information on the asteroid using vision. When the collected data was analyzed, the team noticed that apart from the asteroid and the star, there was another object nearby. Located about 200 km from Polymel, astronomers believe it may be the asteroid’s own satellite.

On March 27, the incident that led to the observation occurred. 26 teams set out to measure the asteroid’s position, shape and size with unprecedented precision. 14 teams reported seeing twinkling stars during the event. However, the two observations do not match. “Those two observers discovered an object about 200 km (about 124 miles) from Polymel. It had to be a satellite,” said Mark Bui, the Lucy Occultation Science Lead at the Southwest Research Institute.

through occultism data, the team estimates that the satellite is approximately 5 km in diameter. Polymel, which is 27 km wide, and its moon are about 200 km apart. At the time Polymel Hertl passed in front of the star, the asteroid was 770 million km from Earth.

Scientists believe that asteroids contain important information that can help unravel the history of the solar system. Earlier, the Lucy The team used the Hubble Space Telescope to discover that Eurybates is a small satellite of one of the Trojan asteroids.


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