Astronomers pointed the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile in the direction of the dog bone-shaped asteroid Kleopatra to capture its best images yet, revealing that the rock is larger than previously claimed.
According to Daily Mail, it is a mostly metal asteroid that orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. For more than a century since its discovery in 1880 by astronomer Johann Palisa, scientists have been fascinated by this bizarre asteroid.
Best Images of Asteroid Kleopatra
The best images of asteroid Kleopatra are captured by the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory in Chile. It shows that the rock is made up of two lobes connected by a thick neck and that it is larger than previous records show. The asteroid is 125 million miles from Earth, which makes it look like a golf ball from afar.
The images were taken in 2017 and 2019 by an international team of astronomers led by SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, who processed the images.
In the study, titled "An Advanced Multipole Model for (216) Kleopatra Triple System" published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, lead author Dr. Franck Marchis wrote that asteroid Kleopatra is indeed a unique body in the Solar System as proven by the detailed images.
"Science makes a lot of progress thanks to the study of weird outliers. I think Kleopatra is one of those and understanding this complex, multiple asteroid systems can help us learn more about our Solar System," Daily Mail quoted Dr. Marchis.
Previous studies suggest that the asteroid was a remnant of a violent collision between two asteroids, but somehow it did not completely shatter. The 3D models of Kleopatra captured by VLT show that one lobe is bigger than the other and that it has a density of 3.4 grams per cubic centimeter. More so, half of its density is made up of iron, and that its two moons are in a different locations.
Asteroid Kleopatra and Its Two Moons
According to Space.com, astronomers first spotted the two moons of the asteroid Kleopatra in 2008 by Dr. Marchis. Since then, scientists have been keeping an eye on the asteroid and its two moons.
When astronomers used the VLT to view the asteroid, they also captured detailed images of its two moons called AlexHelios and CleoSelene, named after the two children of a famous Egyptian Queen.
Researchers used SPHERE to snap some photos of the asteroid, which they used to created 3D models of the asteroid system. They pointed out that images show that the two mons were orbiting a larger body.
Furthermore, they also determined that previous orbital models of the asteroid system do not match with their recent findings. For scientists, it is a crucial discovery because they use the relationship of the body and its moons to gain insight into how gravity plays between them and also know the exact mass of the asteroid Kleopatra.
Their analysis suggests that the two moons must have come from the asteroid itself because they found that Kleopatra is spinning at a quicker speed than they have thought. This might have led the asteroid to fling itself into pieces, especially during collisions with small rubble that pulled pebbles off the surface of the asteroid and coalesced with the moons.
RELATED ARTICLE: The Snowman: Discovering Objects Beyond Pluto
Check out more news and information on Asteroid in Science Times.