August 10, 2005
Stargazers Spy Asteroid with Two Moons
LONDON -- Scientists have spotted an asteroid with more than one moon -- the first discovery of its kind.
Astronomers found a second moonlet orbiting 87 Sylvia, a heavenly body zooming around the sun in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, according to a Nature magazine report.
"We were very excited -- it was the strawberry on the cake," Marchis said. "People have been looking for them for more than five years."
Asteroids, regular fodder for Hollywood disaster movies, are believed to form out of material which did not combine to make bigger planets or after collisions between larger objects.
The discovery of Sylvia's second moon, using a telescope in Chile, allows for a clearer picture of the asteroid and its origins and will help to explore the stability of such moons.
It may even have more, smaller satellites swarming around her, Marchis said.