Saturday, June 1, 2013

The return of Dactyl

Some of you reading this may remember that the communication-challenged Galileo Jupiter probe flew by a couple of asteroids on the way to its ultimately succesful Jupiter mission.   And when it flew by asteroid Ida, it discovered, for the very first time, that a big asteroid had a little asteroid as a moon.

Well, Earth just had a close (relatively speaking in the astronomical sense) pass by a big asteroid, and it turns out from a radar survey of this asteroid that it too has a moon.  Now, when I read the article and saw the pictures, I thought the little bright spot was the "new" moon, but I had to wait until I saw a tweet to another article to confirm that.

So, as it stands, the picures show that the asteroid does have a little moon.  Because there are asteroid fragments all over the Solar System (mostly in the belt, of course), it's not unlikely that many of this little planet pieces have littler planet species in orbit around them.

NASA radar discovers that asteroid has its own moon

Because the asteroid is named 1998 QE2, my preference for the name of the moon is "Dinghy".

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