Lucy was launched in October 2021 and is built for the Trojan asteroids. Because of the pull of Jupiter’s enormous gravity, it goes through the gas giant’s orbit ahead of and after the behemoth. In 2027, Lucy will become the first human-made object to drive past one of these asteroids.
According to the Spaceflight Now report, The mission was to look past a main-belt asteroid and then swivel through a complicated itinerary of Trojan asteroids. And now, scientists have determined that one of Lucy’s original target asteroids has a companion: another, a tiny asteroid that orbits it and that Lucy will also be able to observe, Spaceflight Now reports (opens in new tab)s.
Lucy’s third target is supposed to be an asteroid called Polymele, which is a gourd-shaped space rock that’s approximately 13 miles from top to bottom. Polymele’s shape is somewhat weird for an asteroid, indicating that it’s a leftover from the early solar system and the one that has successfully avoided collisions till now.
“We got a really nice projected shape of Polymele, and then we were very surprised to detect an object about 200 kilometers (120 miles) away from Polymele,” Hal Levison, who is a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute and Lucy’s principal investigator, announced in a demonstration last week. “It’s 5 kilometers (3 miles) in diameter, and it’s sitting almost exactly in Polymele’s equatorial plane.”