Scientists Capture Detailed Image of One of the Most Mysterious Asteroids in the Solar System
PRESS RELEASE: @ESO captures best images yet of peculiar “dog-bone” asteroid— The SETI Institute (@SETIInstitute) September 9, 2021
Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, a team of astronomers have obtained the sharpest and most detailed images yet of the asteroid Kleopatra. https://t.co/XMATV5Pkop pic.twitter.com/Ah19Oo6quZ
The data, in turn, allowed the researchers to figure out Kleopatra's density. For a long time, scientists thought that it was a metallic asteroid. However, the latest calculation revealed that its density is half the density of iron. This suggests that the asteroid has a porous structure and could be little more than a "pile of rubble". Scientists say the discovery means that Kleopatra likely formed following a massive impact.
Thanks to the detailed image, the researchers were also able to more accurately define the orbits of the asteroid’s moons - AlexHelios and CleoSelene. They were named after the children the Egyptian ruler Cleopatra had with Roman politician and general Mark Antony – Alexander Helios (Sun) and Cleopatra Selene (Moon).
According to Franck Marchis of the SETI Institute, who has been researching the asteroid for years, the team's discovery could contribute to subsequent studies.
"Kleopatra is truly a unique body in our Solar System. 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 system can help us learn more about our Solar System", Marchis said.