NASA Lucy spacecraft’s first-ever asteroid target gets an ASTONISHING name

The first asteroid to be visited by the NASA Lucy spacecraft has been given a new name and it is quite unexpected. Check details.

| Updated on: Feb 22 2023, 16:20 IST
Joy! NASA’s asteroid mission achieved mission impossible, created history
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1/6 Nasa’s DART was the first demonstration of the “kinetic impactor” method of asteroid mitigation. This was the first time, when humans altered the path of a celestial body purposefully. (AFP)
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2/6 NASA chief Bill Nelson said, “All of us have a responsibility to protect our home planet. After all, it’s the only one we have. This mission shows that NASA is trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at us.” He added that the US agency has proven that it can defend the planet. (via REUTERS)
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3/6 Before the crash, asteroid Dimorphous took about 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit the larger asteroid Didymos, whereas, post crash, it took only 11 hours and 23 minutes to orbit the larger asteroid. (via REUTERS)
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4/6 DART impact has shortened the orbit by 32 minutes. None of these space rocks - Dimorphous as well as Didymos pose any threat to our planet, hence it was an ideal target to carry out the DART mission. At the time of collision, the DART spacecraft was traveling at 14000 (22,530-kmph) miles per hour. (via REUTERS)
NASA's Lucy Mission
5/6 The DART team is currently measuring how efficiently the spacecraft transferred its momentum to the asteroid. “DART has given us some fascinating data about both asteroid properties and the effectiveness of a kinetic impactor as a planetary defense technology. The DART team is continuing to work on this rich dataset to fully understand this first planetary defense test of asteroid deflection,” said Nancy Chabot, the DART coordination lead at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in a press statement. (via REUTERS)
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6/6 Didymos, the larger asteroid of the binary pair is about a half mile (780 meters or 2559 feet) in diameter. The moonlet, Dimorphos, is about 525 feet (160 meters) in diameter. (via REUTERS)
NASA's Lucy Mission
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Know the name of the first asteroid to be visited by the NASA Lucy spacecraft. (NASA Solar System Twitter)

In October 2021, the NASA spacecraft Lucy took off for its 12-year journey to ten different asteroids with a focus towards the Jupiter trojans, a large group of asteroids that share the planet Jupiter's orbit around the Sun. This is the first time NASA has conducted a mission to study these far-off asteroids. But before it reaches the trojans, first it will travel to two asteroids located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. And as it races to meet the first asteroid in its path, astronomers have finally given it a name. And this is the most unlikely name ever given to an asteroid.

The name of the asteroid

This tiny asteroid, which was discovered in 1999, has been named Dinkinesh. The word comes from the Amharic language which is spoken in Ethiopia, and it means “you are marvelous”. This is the first time this asteroid is getting an official name. Before this, it only had a provisional designation of 1999 VD57, just like millions of other asteroids in the belt. The asteroid is less than a kilometer wide and Lucy is expected to land on it in November 2023.

There is a reason for this name. The name comes from a fossilized Australopithecus afarensis skeleton discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia, which was given the name Lucy and alternatively was also called Dinkinesh.

“This mission was named for Lucy because just as that fossil revolutionized our understanding of human evolution, we expect this mission to revolutionize our understanding of the origin and evolution of our solar system," Lucy project scientist Keith Noll said in a statement.

What is NASA Lucy spacecraft aiming to find

It is believed that the trojan asteroids are actually remnants of the same material that formed the planets in a primitive and untouched condition. This means that these asteroids are essentially fossils of our solar system and can reveal some crucial information that can tell us more about how the solar system originated.

“No other space mission in history has been launched to as many different destinations in independent orbits around our sun. Lucy will show us, for the first time, the diversity of the primordial bodies that built the planets,” NASA said in a statement.

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First Published Date: 22 Feb, 16:19 IST