Asteroids are minor planets, especially of the inner Solar System, or they could be more massive in size and be called planetoids. These space rocks have been a subject to study for researchers for many years; however, we can only observe them when they approach the Earth. A small moon seems to orbit one particular asteroid, and NASA plans to visit it.
NASA’s Lucy mission is set for takeoff in 2021 to visit the Trojan asteroids. They will send a probe in Jupiter’s orbit, where the discovered asteroid has a small natural satellite or moon in its orbit. This particular asteroid was discovered by researchers from the Southwest Research Institute or SwRI. The asteroid, dubbed Eurybates, is one of the larger Trojan asteroids measuring 63 kilometers in diameter. Eurybates has an orbital period of 12 years.
A Moon Orbiting an Asteroid From the Trojan Cluster Was Found
Hal Levison, the principal investigator for SwRI, explains that it could be due to its massive size. Compared to the rest of the asteroids under the Trojan cluster, it makes sense that Eurybates asteroid was chosen to have a satellite. It probably is the most massive space rock leftover from the collision that happened billions of years ago. The crash could also explain why clusters like Trojan asteroids have small satellites. As excited as scientists are about this new discovery, the satellite orbiting Eurybates is very hard to be found.
Furthermore, this could be related to one of the biggest mysteries of our world: the extinction of the dinosaurs that roamed the Earth millions of years ago. It is strongly believed that what caused the demise of the dinosaurs during the Cretaceous-Paleogene era was an asteroid collision on our planet. Researchers from Yale University also claim that an asteroid impact was the main culprit of their extinction.