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Tags Current Affairs

NASA’s Lucy mission

Date: 20 January 2021 Tags: Space

Issue

NASA will launch Lucy mission in October 2021 to study Trojan asteroids of our outer solar system at the distance of Jupiter.

 

Background

The mission takes its name from the fossilized human ancestor whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity’s evolution.

 

Details

  • In 2025, it will fly by the inner main-belt asteroid 52246 Donaldjohanson, which was named for the discoverer of the Lucy hominin fossil.

  •  In 2027, it will arrive at the L4 Trojan cloud, where it will fly by four Trojans, 3548 Eurybates (with its satellite), 15094 Polymele11351 Leucus, and 21900 Orus.

  • After these flybys, Lucy will return to the vicinity of the Earth whereupon it will receive a gravity assist to take it to the L5 Trojan cloud.

  • Three instruments comprise the payload: a high-resolution visible imager, an optical and near-infrared imaging spectrometer and a thermal infrared spectrometer.

  • Lucy’s discoveries will open new insights into the origins of our Earth and ourselves.

Trojans

  • The Jovian Trojans are asteroids that revolve the Sun in the same orbit as Jupiter and are uniformly dark with a hint of burgundy colour, and have matte surfaces that reflect little sunlight.

  • The Trojans are stabilized by the Sun and its largest planet in a gravitational balancing act. There may be as many Trojans as there are asteroids in the asteroid belt.

  • These primitive bodies hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system, and perhaps even the origins of organic material on Earth.

  • The dark-red P- and D-type Trojans resemble those found in the Kuiper Belt of icy bodies that extends beyond the orbit of Neptune.

  • The C-types are found mostly in the outer parts of the Main Belt of asteroids, between Mars and Jupiter.

  • All of the Trojans are thought to be abundant in dark carbon compounds. Below an insulating blanket of dust, they are probably rich in water and other volatile substances.

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