Picture through ESO / Vernazza, Marchis et al. / MISTRAL algorithm (ONERA / CNRS)

Astronomers have managed to take the most detailed images to date of the asteroid Cleopatra using the very large telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO’s VLT).

This asteroid, which for the past two decades has been admirably called the “dog bone asteroid” that orbits the sun from its location between Mars and Jupiter. It gets its name from its structure: two blocks connected by a thinner “neck”. In addition to bone, it also resembles a dumbbell.

It has been described as a “strange anomaly” by Franck Marchis, astronomer who led asteroid research published in leaf Astronomy and astrophysics. However, it is these discrepancies that ensure scientific progress.

In the study, Marchis and his team created a 3D model of the structure using images taken from Cleopatra in 2017-2019 with VLT’s spectro-polarimetric high-contrast Exoplanet REsearch (SPHERE).

This 3D model shows that the shape of the dog’s bone extends to about 270 kilometers (168 miles) long and that one block is larger than the other. Because the model was created from images taken of its points of rotation, it is by far the most accurate model.

Another study, Published alongside the first, Miroslav Brož led the study of two moons orbiting this strange space structure. The moons named after Cleopatra’s children – AlexHelios and CleoSelene – were found to have different orbits than previous studies showed.

Hence thanks to the new orbits, the team discovered the true mass of Cleopatra. Previously, this was based on estimates of how its gravity affected the orbit of the moons. These new observations showed that the mass of the asteroid is about 35% lower than previous values.

By combining Based on the volume and mass values, the scientists were also able to calculate the “true” density of the asteroid, which turned out to be less than half of the previous estimated value.

Strange The structure was therefore considered to have a porous structure, indicating that its formation occurred when the material re-accumulated after a large impact.

“This system certainly deserves special attention in the future, ”the team concludes and suggests that more very large telescopes and“ possibly its own space operation ”are needed to reveal its history.

[via SciTechDaily, image via ESO/Vernazza, Marchis et al./MISTRAL algorithm (ONERA/CNRS)]

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