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Nasa’s lucy spacecraft discovers age of first asteroid target


NEW DELHI: Nasa’s Lucy spacecraft, in a flyby in November made an unexpected discovery, revealing that the target named Dinkinesh was not a single rock but rather a cluster of three rocks, reported. The spacecraft also discovered that Selam, Dinkinesh’s natural satellite, which upon closer inspection, was found to be two objects fused together.
By examining the significant craters on the space rocks, scientists have estimated Dinkinesh to be around 7 million years old and Selam approximately 2 million years old.They find it fascinating that Dinkinesh and Selam exhibit only a minor age gap (in cosmic terms, 5 million years is negligible compared to the age of our 4.5-billion-year-old solar system).
“This could tell us something fundamental about the formation of these objects and possibly different processes are responsible for Dinkinesh and Selam,” said Marchi, the deputy principal investigator of the mission at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Texas.
The encounter with Dinkinesh was initially meant as an engineering test for Lucy’s tracking system. However, the spacecraft exceeded expectations, providing remarkably clear images throughout the flyby. Scientists from the SwRI shared their findings at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), revealing that Dinkinesh and Selam exhibit similar characteristics, suggesting they are likely remnants of larger celestial bodies, reported.
John Spencer, the mission’s deputy project scientist said, “We totally blew those requirements out of the water.” “We had pin sharp images all the way through the encounter,” he added.
The study of these asteroids also sheds light on phenomena such as the “YORP effect,” where solar radiation causes slight thrust, altering the rotation of space rocks. Additionally, the Lucy mission, launched in 2021, is poised to explore more Trojan asteroids, aiming to uncover insights into the solar system’s formation and the origins of life on Earth.
(With inputs from agencies)

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