ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base have detected a moon orbiting an asteroid with the smallest telescope they’ve ever used. AFRL reports that on Nov. 29, 202, a Starfire Optical Range telescope recorded an image of asteroid Kalliope and its moon Linus.
The telescope used was only 1.5 meters in diameter. AFRL reports that typically, larger eight to ten-meter diameter telescopes such as those on mountaintops in Hawaii or Chile are used to view asteroids that are faint to begin with and their moons are even fainter. In a news release, AFRL states that detecting asteroids requires large telescopes since faintness limits are proportional to telescope mirror area and resolution is proportional to telescope diameter.
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Researchers with AFRL explain that in all instances, adaptive optics (AO) is required to defeat the turbulence of the atmosphere by making the point sources or stars much smaller and brighter.
The asteroid Kalliope is in the Main Belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. It is about 161 kilometers in diameter while its moon Linus is one of two known to orbit Kalliope.
Linus was discovered in 2010 with the Keck 10-meter telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and is about 35 km in diameter. Linus orbits Kalliope at a distance of 1,100 km in 3.6 days.