NASA’s Lucy Spacecraft Unlocks Asteroid Dinkinesh’s Dynamic History

WASHINGTON—A little asteroid called Dinkinesh—visited last November by NASA’s Lucy spacecraft—has a surprisingly dynamic history, according to scientists, along with its moonlet Selam that is comprised of two bodies that gently melded into one.

Dinkinesh and Selam are the smallest asteroids from our solar system’s main asteroid belt, located between the planets Mars and Jupiter, ever seen up close by a spacecraft. Lucy observed ridges, trough structures, and other characteristics on Dinkinesh that hint at a complicated past for the asteroid and its companion, the researchers said on Wednesday.

The U.S. space agency launched Lucy in 2021 on a 12-year mission to study asteroids—in particular, Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, two batches of space rocks that lead and trail the giant planet as it orbits the sun. On the way, Lucy flew past Dinkinesh and Selam in the inner edge of the main asteroid belt.

Dinkinesh has a diameter of nearly a half mile (720 meters). Selam is made up of two similarly sized lobes, one about 750 feet (230 meters) wide and the other about 690 feet (210 meters). Selam orbits Dinkinesh once about every 53 hours at a distance of about two miles (3.1 km).

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