Tiny Moons Around Asteroids

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Franck Marchis, Senior Researcher, SETI Institute

After decades of speculation, the existence of multiple asteroids—asteroids with one or several companions around them—has been observationally confirmed. Today more than 200 companions of asteroids are known, and half of them were discovered by large worldwide network of professional and amateur astronomers equipped with small and medium size telescopes. By detection of small dip in brightness due to mutual eclipse events, these surveys give us the opportunity to better understand these fascinating mini-planetary systems. Asteroid multiplicity is an astronomical prize for observers and theorists alike, since it helps constrain theories on the origin of our solar system. Dr. Marchis of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute will briefly describe the powerful adaptive optics technology used today that make it possible to image several multiple asteroid systems. He will also present several NASA and ESA space mission concepts dedicated to explore these new worlds in-situ.

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