Asteroid Sylvia and her twins
One of the thousands of minor planets orbiting the Sun has been found to have its own mini planetary system. Astronomer Franck Marchis (University of California, Berkeley, USA) and his colleagues at the Observatoire de Paris (France)  have discovered the first triple asteroid system - two small asteroids orbiting a larger one known since 1866 as 87 Sylvia .
"Since double asteroids seem to be common, people have been looking for multiple asteroid systems for a long time," said Marchis. "I couldn't believe we found one."
The discovery was made with Yepun, one of ESO's 8.2-m telescopes of the Very Large Telescope Array at Cerro Paranal (Chile), using the outstanding image' sharpness provided by the adaptive optics NACO instrument. Via the observatory's proven "Service Observing Mode", Marchis and his colleagues were able to obtain sky images of many asteroids over a six-month period without actually having to travel to Chile.
ESO Press Video eso0526 is an artist rendering of the triple asteroid system showing the large asteroid 87 Sylvia spinning at a rapid rate and surrounded by two smaller asteroids (Remus and Romulus) in orbit around it. This computer animation is also available in broadcast quality to the media (please contact Herbert Zodet).Credit: