In an enthralling celestial revelation, a “mini moon” was unearthed by NASA’s Lucy spacecraft during its exploration of a minor asteroid situated in the outer reaches of the solar system.
The craft, aptly named Lucy, was on a mission to the asteroid Dinkinesh when it serendipitously stumbled upon the presence of a celestial companion, marking one of NASA’s most diminutive yet intriguing discoveries in recent memory.
This revelation transpired during a flyby of Dinkinesh, located an astounding 300 million miles from Earth, nestled within the asteroid belt, extending beyond the orbit of Mars. At a distance of approximately 270 miles from the asteroid, Lucy captured a remarkable image of this binary system.
As data and images were transmitted back to Earth, it was confirmed that Dinkinesh spans a mere half-mile, equivalent to roughly 790 meters in width. Its moon, however, is even more diminutive, measuring a meager one-tenth of a mile, or a compact 220 meters.
The Lucy spacecraft, initially launched in 2021, was dispatched on this mission to Dinkinesh as part of a rehearsal for encounters with more massive and enigmatic asteroids located near Jupiter. Scheduled for arrival at the first of these Trojan asteroids in 2027, Lucy will conduct an extensive six-year exploration of these celestial bodies. The initial target list of seven asteroids has since expanded to encompass a total of 11.
The moniker “Dinkinesh” is of Ethiopian Amharic origin, translating to “you are marvelous.” Southwest Research Institute’s Hal Levison, the lead scientist on this endeavor, aptly expressed, “Dinkinesh really did live up to its name; this is marvelous.”