In the early morning of May 9, 2021, Unistellar citizen astronomers successfully contributed to the detection of Trojan asteroid Patroclus by occultation. Patroclus’ shadow was traveling at 17.5 km/s along a path across the United States, from California to Wisconsin and the event lasted less than 6 seconds.
Later this year, the NASA Lucy spacecraft will launch and be the very first mission to study Trojan asteroids. During its mission, Lucy will visit 7 different Trojan asteroids, including the Patroclus binary system (and its companion Menoetius). Lucy will provide new insights into these primordial objects that formed the planets of our solar system, the origins of Earth, and perhaps even the formation of life.
Four Unistellar citizen astronomers successfully detected Patroclus from their backyards in California: Rachel Knight, Kevin Voeller, Victor Osaka, and actor and musician Tim Russ, known for his role as Tuvok from Star Trek Voyager! SETI/Unistellar Science Team member and graduate student at UC Berkeley, Arin Avsar also made a successful detection of Patroclus. Their contributions, together with the campaign organized by Marc Buie of SWRI for NASA, will assist the Lucy spacecraft safely navigate as it flies by Patroclus binary system in 2033.
Watch the video below to learn more about this great achievement from the Unistellar community!