NASA’s Lucy mission confirmed the launch of the Eurybates satellite, The NASA mission team saw Lucy twice after discovering that Eurybates, an asteroid that the spaceship wanted to fly in 2027, had a small satellite.

Additional research opportunities for this project were found using images taken by Hubble Broadband Camera 3 in September 2018, December 2019 and January 2020.

Launched in October 2021, Lucy is the first space mission to examine the Trojan asteroid, a population of small bodies orbiting Jupiter “who leads” and “trails” the sun, as far as the sun is from the gas giant.

With the encounter flying through seven different asteroids – one in the asteroid belt and six in the Trojans – Lucy will be the first space mission in history to explore so many different targets in independent orbits around our sun.

This diagram illustrates Lucy’s orbital path. The spacecraft’s path (green) is shown in a frame of reference where Jupiter remains stationary, giving the trajectory its pretzel-like shape. After launch in October 2021, Lucy has two close Earth flybys before encountering its Trojan targets. In the L4 cloud Lucy will fly by (3548) Eurybates (white), (15094) Polymele (pink), (11351) Leucus (red), and (21900) Orus (red) from 2027-2028. After diving past Earth again Lucy will visit the L5 cloud and encounter the (617) Patroclus-Menoetius binary (pink) in 2033. As a bonus, in 2025 on the way to the L4, Lucy flies by a small Main Belt asteroid, (52246) Donaldjohanson (white), named for the discoverer of the Lucy fossil. After flying by the Patroclus-Menoetius binary in 2033, Lucy will continue cycling between the two Trojan clouds every six years.

The newly launched satellite is more than 6000 times smaller than Eurybates and points to a diameter of less than 1 km, according to researchers.

The team quickly made the first confirmation notes in December and early January. Satellites that may be barely visible and move in unknown orbits around the much brighter Eurybats. There is no guarantee that it will be seen in the new picture. We didn’t see anything in the first two observations in December, so we started to think we were unlucky. But in the third orbit the time has come.

The team worked with Hubble planners to decide when the next observation should be made after Eurybates became visible again. Because of Earth’s orbits and Eurybats and because Hubble cannot point to the sun, further observations are not possible until June.

Meanwhile, the team used the latest observational data to examine the orbits of satellites around the asteroid. In this way, scientists can determine the best observation time.

Although this has no impact on the architecture or design of the spacecraft, the project team carefully planned how to safely explore the new satellite, while ensuring that the requirements of the Eurybates exploration mission were fully met.

Asteroid Trojans have been trapped in Lagrange’s stable point orbit for billions of years due to the combined gravitational effects of the Sun and Jupiter. Lucy will explore the diversity of ancient giants on this giant planet and discover new knowledge about the origin of our planet and the solar system.

Only a few Trojan asteroids are known with satellites, and the existence of satellites is very interesting for Eurybats, researchers say. This is the largest member of the only confirmed Trojan collision family, around 100 asteroids, all traceable and possibly fragments of the same collision.

The ability to scrutinize collision satellites that promise will facilitate our basic understanding of collisions which, according to Statler, are responsible for the formation of satellites in other small body populations.

Missions under the Discovery program, such as Lucy, are relatively small with limited development of around $ 450 million. They are managed by NASA’s Planetary Science Division of the Planetary Mission Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The mission is led by a lead investigator who brings together a team of scientists and engineers to design and carry out missions to solve major scientific problems for the solar system.