NASA’s Spacecraft Set to Visit Tiny Satellite around an Asteroid

The Lucy asteroid mission by NASA is planning to launch a spacecraft towards a newly discovered satellite around a space rock known as the Eurybates. It is part of a group of asteroids known as Trojans, which are small pieces of break-offs during the formation of gas giants, and later got trapped in the orbit stability. They occupy the same orbit as the sun and cluster behind or ahead of Jupiter. Eurybates has been in the Lucy asteroid program for space rock studies since 2018. Since its inclusion in the study, scientists have been trying to figure out whether the Eurybates has a companion. Their efforts to monitor and observe the rock through the Hubble space telescope had been fruitless until late 2019 when they noticed something different from their past recordings. In the coming month, the scientists are hoping to get a more precise look at the satellite as it will be within the Hubble’s view.

The Lucy mission aims to help scientists better understand how the solar system came to look the way it does today. It is the scientist’s theory that the newly discovered satellite and the Eurybates may have been two pieces of large space rock, and studying then will help the scientists understand what happened during solar system collisions. Data collected from observation suggests that the Eurybates companion is a very tiny space rock, and the satellite is about less than 1 kilometer. According to NASA, there are only a few Trojans with known satellites, and this discovery is a milestone in the study of Eurybates. This is because; the Eurybates is the largest member of the Trojan collision family.

Since this discovery, NASA’s Lucy asteroid mission has had a busy itinerary as it plans to launch its space rock targets by October 2021. This spacecraft is expected to reach the first of its mark in 2027. The team behind this mission is regularly evaluating various situations to ensure that the rocket does not slip too close to the rock and collide. Once these spacecraft are within the target range, they will be able to monitor close asteroids and the surrounding space, and relay data back to mission control. This translates to a better understanding of what happens during solar collisions and also open a platform to take a glimpse and understand the deep space. The Lucy asteroid mission may even pave the way to more discoveries on quantum physics and relativity such as wormholes and black holes.