In the solar system, found a mini-moon – the smallest known to astronomers

(ORDO NEWS) — Astronomers have discovered a tiny rocky object orbiting a small asteroid near Jupiter – apparently, this is a real moon.

If the rocky moon, which is slightly wider than the width of Manhattan, is confirmed to be a real moon, it would be one of the smallest moons known to science.

The tiny moon has been discovered by scientists working on NASA’s Lucy mission, which sends a space probe to study some of the Trojan asteroids, two massive clusters of space rocks on either side of Jupiter in its orbit around the Sun.

The Lucy probe was launched on October 16, 2021 and will arrive at the Trojan asteroids in late 2027 after a quick stop in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

In the meantime, Mission Lucy scientists are trying to learn more about some of these mysterious rocks to help determine where the probe could be most useful.

On March 27, Lucy’s smallest Trojan target, known as Polymela, passed in front of a distant star, allowing mission scientists to accurately measure the size of the space rock by observing how much of the star’s light was blocked by the asteroid as it swept past it.

However, astronomers drew attention to the fact that after the flyby of Polymela, there was another, much smaller episode of blackout. This meant that another body was floating in space behind the asteroid – but what is it?

Astroid’s personal companion

After reviewing the data, the team concluded that the second object “should be a satellite,” lead researcher Mark Buie, an astronomer at the Southwestern Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado , said in a NASA statement .

This satellite has a diameter of about 5 kilometers and is 201 kilometers from Polymela (whose diameter is 27 km). At the time of observation, Polymela was at a distance of about 772 million kilometers from Earth.

NASA claims that detecting such a tiny object in space is as easy as finding a small coin on the sidewalk of one city while standing on the roof of a skyscraper in another and looking through a spyglass.

In the solar system found a mini moon the smallest known to astronomers 2
Visual comparison of the sizes of Polymela and its satellite

The term “moon” can refer to any natural solid body that orbits a planet, dwarf planet, or asteroid.

More than 200 satellites have been discovered in the solar system (not counting asteroid satellites), but according to NASA, the actual number is likely much higher.

Researchers could only make fleeting observations of the Polymela moon, so its orbital trajectory is highly uncertain.

As a result, the space rock cannot yet be officially designated as a “moon” – more data needs to be collected first.

However, scientists are confident that when the Lucy probe arrives at Polimela, the spacecraft will be able to collect enough information to confirm or disprove the theory.


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