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EarthSky | Dog-bone asteroid Kleopatra makes a fetching portrait

View larger. | Astronomers captured these photos of asteroid 216 Kleopatra, the dog-bone asteroid, at totally different occasions between 2017 and 2019. They launched this composite on September 9, 2021. The photos present how we see totally different angles of Kleopatra’s dog-bone form because the asteroid rotates. Image by way of ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.

216 Kleopatra – aka the dog-bone asteroid – would possibly paws-ibly be the cutest object within the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It was one of many earliest asteroids to be found, in 1880. But astronomers labeled it as a dog-bone 20 years in the past, when radar observations at Arecibo Observatory revealed its two lobes and thick “neck.” Astronomer Franck Marchis of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, led the workforce that captured the sharpest and most detailed photos but of Kleopatra (above).

The European Southern Observatory launched the photographs this week (September 9, 2021) and mentioned the brand new observations brought about astronomers to understand this fetching asteroid is somewhat ruff across the edges. It could also be nothing greater than an enormous rubble pile that’s misplaced a few of its pebbles, however gained two moons.

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The astronomers printed two new research of Kleopatra, one on May 19 and the opposite on August 16, within the peer-reviewed journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Scientists used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to view Kleopatra, which, at its nearest, comes inside 125 million miles (200 million km) of Earth. This is like attempting to see a golf ball from 25 miles (40 km) away.

Dog-bone asteroid tumbles by way of space

ESO’s Very Large Telescope took the photographs proven right here between 2017 and 2019. The vary of photos permits astronomers to see the asteroid because it tumbles by way of space, revealing totally different angles and enabling them to create 3D fashions of Kleopatra. They discovered one of many lobes is bigger than the opposite. They additionally discovered that the total size of the asteroid is 167 miles (270 km). For measurement comparability, the scientists created photos of what Kleopatra would seem like hovering over Earth above Italy and Chile.

Marchis, the workforce chief of one of many research, described the worth of learning an uncommon object comparable to Kleopatra:

Kleopatra is actually a novel physique in our solar system. Science makes loads of progress due to the research of bizarre outliers. I believe Kleopatra is a kind of, and understanding this complicated, a number of asteroid system might help us study extra about our solar system.

Dog-bone shape floating high over view of Italy from orbit, with curve of Earth in background.
To examine Kleopatra the dog-bone asteroid with Earth, ESO created this composite picture displaying how massive the asteroid would look if positioned over northern Italy. Image by way of ESO.
Dog-bone asteroid high over orbital view of Chile with curve of globe in background.
Another measurement comparability exhibits Kleopatra hovering over Chile. ESO’s Very Large Telescope, which took the brand new photos, is situated within the Atacama Desert in Chile. Image by way of ESO.

Kleopatra and its moons

Kleopatra, named for the Egyptian queen, isn’t alone because it orbits the sun out within the asteroid belt. Two moons orbit round it: AlexHelios and CleoSelene, which scientists named for the queen’s real-life fraternal twins.

Miroslav Brož of Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, was the lead creator of the opposite research on Kleopatra. His workforce used the brand new observations to seek out the proper orbits of the moons. Previous research produced orbits that didn’t jibe with the observations. Brož mentioned:

This needed to be resolved, as a result of if the moons’ orbits have been flawed, all the pieces was flawed, together with the mass of Kleopatra.

His workforce resolved the problem by utilizing the brand new observations and modeling to find Kleopatra’s gravitational affect on the motion of the moons. Once the satellites’ orbits have been outlined, the astronomers might calculate Kleopatra’s mass. They discovered that its mass was 35% decrease than earlier estimates. With the amount and mass estimates, the scientists might then estimate the density, which was additionally decrease than beforehand believed.

Scientists now suppose that Kleopatra isn’t far more than a rubble pile, shaped from materials that underwent a large impression. They realized that if the asteroid rotated a lot sooner, it will start to crumble aside. In truth, Marchis’ workforce believes that is how Kleopatra’s moons have been born, from items of the asteroid that have been ripped away in small impacts. The stripped pebbles ultimately coalesced to type the 2 moons.

Dog-bone shape asteroid with two dot moons on either side.
View larger. | ESO’s Very Large Telescope took photos of Kleopatra and its 2 moons in July 2017. The moons, which scientists named AlexHelios and CleoSelene, are the dots within the high proper and backside left corners. Scientists needed to take away the glare from their photos with a purpose to reveal the moons. Image by way of ESO.

Future observations

The present observations, made with ESO’s Very Large Telescope, used advance adaptive optics programs. These programs right for the impact of Earth’s ambiance, which might in any other case distort and blur the ensuing picture.

The scientists are excited concerning the prospects of ESO’s latest observatory, the Extremely Large Telescope, deliberate for 2027. As the “World’s Biggest Eye on the Sky,” will probably be best for imaging Kleopatra and different difficult objects. As Marchis mentioned:

I can’t wait to level the ELT at Kleopatra to see if there are extra moons and refine their orbits to detect small adjustments.

Bottom line: Kleopatra, the dog-bone asteroid, reveals its measurement and composition in new photos launched by ESO.

Source: An advanced multipole model for (216) Kleopatra triple system

Source: (216) Kleopatra, a low density critically rotating M-type asteroid


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