This asteroid may have formed its own moons

WION Web Team
New DelhiUpdated: Sep 10, 2021, 03:02 PM IST

NASA will deliberately collide a spacecraft into an asteroid (representative image). Photograph:(AFP)

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The asteroid is called "dog bone asteroid" due to its peculiar shape

The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter was formed amid formation of our solar system. Whatever material was left after formation of the Sun and the planets was scattered in form of asteroids. Many of them have an orbit that makes them zoom past Earth in close calls. And when one struck our planets millions of years ago it wiped dinosaurs off the face of the planet.

It is hence wise for us to keep a watch on these space rocks. Fortunately there are enough eyes world over in form of space agencies to keep a close watch.

Now, astronomers have suggested that an asteroid that has its own moons, may itself have given birth to its satellites. And the asteroid itself may have given birth to these moons according to two studies.

The name of this asteroid is Kleopatra and the two moons are called AlexHelios and CleoSelene. The moons have been named after children of Egyptian Queen Cleopatra.

The asteroid Kleopatra is also called "dog bone asteroid" because of its characteristic shape. The asteroid has two lobes connected by a long 'neck'.

Scientific community has known about the asteroid for decades but researchers recently obtained clearer images of Kleopatra using European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile. 

They were thus able to determine dimensions of the asteroid. This allowed them to calculate volume.

Another team from Charles University in Chekia was working to ascertain orbits of moons of the asteroid. Orbits are constrained by gravitational fields a body moves through and this then correlates to mass in the system

Using newer methos and mathematical modelling the correct mass of Kleopatra was determined.

When we know mass and volume, we can determine density. The density of Kleopatra was found to be very low. This combined with the knowledge that the asteroid moves around itself at relatively fast speed it is logical to conclude that material must be able escaping its surface only to coalesce and form the moons

Both the studies have been published in journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.