NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day, May 27, 2023: This asteroid has a moon! | Tech News

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day, May 27, 2023: This asteroid has a moon!

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day for May 27 features Asteroid 243 Ida with its moon Dactyl.

| Updated on: May 28 2023, 14:39 IST
Eye-catching NASA Astronomy Pictures of the Week: Jupiter’s swirls, Virgo Galaxy Cluster, and more
Asteroid with moon
1/5 Supernova near M101 Spiral Galaxy (May 22) - This is a snapshot of the supernova SN 2023ixf located near the M101 spiral galaxy. This supernova was discovered by Japanese astronomer Koichi Itagaki and was located on the automated images captured by the Zwicky Transient Facility, a wide-field sky astronomical survey in California. (NASA/Craig Stocks)
Asteroid with moon
2/5 Breathtaking swirls of Jupiter (May 23) - Jupiter’s swirls, formed due to the storms raging on the surface of the planet can be seen in this breathtaking image. According to NASA, The planet has also been harboring various natural phenomena for hundreds of years. Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot is a giant storm bigger than Earth that has raged for hundreds of years. ( NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)
Asteroid with moon
3/5 Moon hides behind Jupiter (May 24) - This is an amazing snapshot of lunar occultation, as the Moon hid behind Jupiter. This phenomenon occurred earlier this month, and while the Moon is half-lit by the Sun, its other part is in hiding. In the snapshot shared by NASA, the Moon is backdropping the Lick Observatory in California, USA, on the summit of Mount Hamilton. (NASA/Rick Whitacre)
Asteroid with moon
4/5 Breathtaking Cat's Eye Nebula (May 25) -  NGC 6543, also known as the Cat's Eye Nebula located about 3000 light-years away was shot in this spectacular image. According to NASA, the Cat’s Eye Nebula is one of the best-known planetary nebulae in the sky and its faint outer halo spans about 5 light-years. NGC 6543 is located towards the constellation of Draco and was discovered by German-British astronomer William Herschel on February 15, 1786. (NASA/Jean-Francois Bax/Guillaume Gruntz)
Asteroid with moon
5/5 Virgo cluster of galaxies (May 26) - It is a snapshot of the Virgo cluster of galaxies located about 50 million light-years away. According to NASA, the Virgo cluster is the nearest cluster of galaxies and contains over 2000 galaxies. This cluster also includes bright Messier galaxies such as M84 and M86 which are part of the Markarian's Chain. Dominating this galaxy cluster is the giant elliptical galaxy M87. (NASA/Abdullah Al-Harbi)
Asteroid with moon
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Dactyl is the first moon of an asteroid ever discovered! (NASA)

Do asteroids have moons? Certainly! Asteroids with their own moon are not exactly common in the solar system, but they are very much there. NASA reveals that more than 150 asteroids are known to have a small companion moon and even some have two moons. Last year, astronomers discovered a third moon orbiting the asteroid 130 Elektra.

NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day has featured an asteroid that has a tiny moon! The robotic spacecraft Galileo had a notable encounter with two asteroids during its extensive interplanetary journey to Jupiter in 1993. One of the asteroids in focus was 243 Ida, and to the surprise of scientists, it was found to possess a moon.

While sharing the image, NASA explained that the tiny moon, named Dactyl, appeared as a small dot on the right side of the featured image. It measured a mere 1.6 kilometres in diameter. In contrast, the main asteroid Ida had a distinctive elongated shape resembling a potato, with dimensions of approximately 60 kilometres in length and 25 kilometres in width. The discovery of Dactyl marked the first confirmation of a moon orbiting an asteroid, a finding that has since revealed the existence of several asteroid-moon systems.

How did asteroid Ida and moon Dactyl get their name

Ida received its name from Moriz von Kuffner, an amateur astronomer and Viennese brewer, who chose to honour a nymph from Greek mythology. According to NASA, the nymph along with her sister Adrasteia, had the sacred duty of nurturing and safeguarding the infant Zeus. Dactyl got its name from the International Astronomical Union, getting inspiration from the mythological creatures that were believed to inhabit the renowned Mt. Ida situated on the island of Crete.

How asteroids can come to have moons

There are different theories about how asteroids can end up having moons. One theory suggests that when two asteroids crash into each other, one of them might get pushed out of its regular path and get trapped by the other asteroid, forming a moon. Another theory suggests that a small asteroid might get caught in the gravitational pull of a larger asteroid and start orbiting around it, becoming its moon.

By studying the moons of asteroids, scientists can learn more about what asteroids are made of and how they are structured. It can also help us understand the powerful forces that have shaped the solar system.

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First Published Date: 28 May, 14:37 IST