On October 16, NASA launched the Lucy spacecraft on a 12-year mission to explore eight asteroids in Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid belt.
According to scientists, many large asteroids will come near to Earth in the following weeks, starting October 15.
As per the NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, the first, the 525-foot wide 2021 SM3, flew past Earth on October 15.
Seven bigger asteroids are expected to travel near to Earth by the end of November, the largest of which, 2004 UE, has a diameter of 1,246 feet, USA Today reported.
Asteroid 1996 VB3 will come closest to Earth on October 20 at a distance of 2.1 million miles.
Despite being close by interstellar standards, none of the asteroids will be visible without a telescope, according to scientists.
NASA launches Mission ‘Lucy’
To investigate eight asteroids in Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid belt on October 16, NASA on Saturday launched the Lucy spacecraft on a 12-year mission.
Nestled into the nose cone of a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Lucy, a 1,500-kilogram spacecraft is built by Lockheed Martin in Colorado.
Early on Saturday, NASA launched the Lucy mission to learn more about Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid swarms.
Spacecraft Lucy to travel through seven Trojan asteroids
Between 2027 and 2033, the mission Lucy will visit seven Trojan asteroids, as well as a bonus main-belt asteroid in 2025.
Pertinently, there has never been a space mission, except the latest one, that has been launched to as many distinct destinations in various orbits around the Sun.
Taking advantage of a rare alignment between Earth and asteroids in the outer solar system, the project is scheduled to launch in 23 days.
Scientists hopeful of ‘Lucy’ success
Interestingly, the Trojan asteroids might give information about the solar system’s past history, similar to the fossil discoveries that taught scientists about human evolution.
Asteroids got stuck in swarms when Jupiter formed and settled into its current orbit, each centred on a gravitationally stable libration point ahead of and behind the solar system’s largest planet.
Just fossil transformed our understanding of human evolution, scientists hope that the mission ‘Lucy’ will prove detrimental in transforming our understanding of the solar system.