Nasa’s Ralph to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids in 2021
NASA’S Ralph, one of the most well-travelled scientific instrument, is set to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids aboard the Lucy spacecraft in 2021, the US space agency said. Ralph has made many discoveries since it first launched aboard the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006. Given a name and not an acronym, Ralph enables the study of the composition and atmospheres of celestial objects.
In 2021, the Lucy spacecraft will carry a near-twin of Ralph, called L’ralph (“Lucy Ralph”), to investigate Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which are remnants from the early days of the solar system, Nasa said in a statement on Wednesday.
The L’ralph instrument suite will study this diverse group of bodies. Lucy will fly by six Trojans and one Main Belt asteroid, more than any other previous asteroid mission. L’ralph will detect the Trojan asteroids’ chemical fingerprints, the statement said.
L’ralph allows scientists to interpret data provided by the Sun’s reflected light that are the fingerprints of different elements and compounds.
These data could provide clues about how organic molecules form in primitive bodies, a process that might also have led to the emergence of life on Earth.