NASA mission: NASA probe: Asteroid "Dinkinesh" consists of two

The NASA probe “Lucy” brought back a big surprise from its first close flyby of an asteroid.

NASA mission: NASA probe: Asteroid "Dinkinesh" consists of two

The NASA probe “Lucy” brought back a big surprise from its first close flyby of an asteroid. The first images that “Lucy” sent to Earth showed that “Dinkinesh” was not a single asteroid, but a pair of asteroids, the US space agency Nasa said.

According to initial estimates, the larger asteroid has a circumference of around 790 meters, the smaller one around 220 meters. In recent weeks, data from Lucy's scientific instruments have led scientists to consider that Dinkinesh could possibly be a pair of asteroids. The images taken during the flyby on Wednesday have now confirmed this consideration.

NASA: Initial findings promising

“Lucy” flew past “Dinkinesh” on Wednesday about 400 kilometers away at a speed of about 16,000 kilometers per hour. It was a test flight to see if the probe's scientific instruments worked. Initial findings are promising, NASA said. However, it could take around a week for all the data collected to be sent to Earth.

“Lucy” was launched in 2021 from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in the US state of Florida. The more than 14 meter long probe, which is powered by fuel and batteries that can be recharged via solar cells, is actually on its way to the asteroids of Jupiter and is supposed to fly close to seven of the so-called Jupiter Trojans: Eurybates, Queta, Polymele, Leucus, Orus, Patroclus and Menoetius - all named after protagonists from the ancient saga "Iliad" by Homer.

The Jupiter Trojans are asteroids that orbit the sun in the same orbit as Jupiter - one swarm precedes it, one follows it. They are considered “fossils of the formation of planets,” which is why NASA hopes the mission will provide new insights into the formation of planets and our solar system.

“Lucy” is expected to travel 6.5 billion kilometers

In addition, "Lucy" will be the first probe in the history of space travel to return to the vicinity of the Earth three times in order to obtain support from Earth's gravity for its flight. The mission is scheduled to last twelve years, and "Lucy" is expected to cover a total of around 6.5 billion kilometers.

The probe's name is taken from the Beatles song "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds". It is said to have blared from a cassette recorder when researchers discovered parts of the skeleton of a female pre-human in the Ethiopian Afar Triangle in 1974. The find proved for the first time that the forerunners of today's humans were able to walk upright around three million years ago.

The fossil - and now the NASA probe - was nicknamed "Lucy". According to NASA, the reason is simple: "Just as the 'Lucy' fossil provided unique insights into human evolution, the 'Lucy' mission promises to revolutionize our knowledge of the formation of the planets and the solar system."