On its mission to explore Jupiter's Trojan asteroids, NASA's Lucy spacecraft made a serendipitous discovery during its flyby of the main-belt asteroid Dinkinesh. The encounter revealed not one but two asteroids.
Launched in 2021, Lucy was originally planned to fly by seven asteroids, including Trojan moons. The recent flyby of Dinkinesh, a small main-belt asteroid, presented an exciting twist. During this encounter, Lucy passed within just 300 miles of Dinkinesh, providing a closer look than ever before.
The encounter primarily served as an in-flight test of Lucy's tracking system, designed to autonomously track asteroids as the spacecraft zooms past at speeds of up to 10,000 mph. Despite Dinkinesh's small size, the system performed admirably, ensuring the mission's instruments captured valuable data.
Lucy's journey continues with a flyby of the main-belt asteroid Donaldjohanson in 2025. After these tests, Lucy will focus on its main targets, the Jupiter Trojan asteroids.