Intentional 14,000-mphTwo weeks ago the 525-foot-wide body in asteroid Dimorphos swung on a slightly different course, NASA confirmed Tuesday — shaving 32 minutes from the time needed to complete one orbit around a parent asteroid called Didymos.
The impact and now-confirmed course change demonstrated in spectacular fashion the feasibility of at least one technique for pushing a dangerous asteroid or comet before hitting Earth, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, “It felt like a movie plot. But it wasn’t Hollywood.” “NASA successfully crashed a refrigerator-sized spacecraft into the asteroid Dimorphos, seven million miles from Earth. And it hit 14,000 mph. And it was a bullseye.”
high speedClearly visible to ground and space-based telescopes a giant cloud of rock and dust erupted, an “ejecta” plume that contributed to a slight change in the asteroid’s orbit around Didymos.
Nelson said that the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, test showed that if “an Earth-threatening asteroid was discovered, and we could see it far enough, this technique could be used to deflect it.” can be done for.”
“And so today, NASA has confirmed that Dart has successfully changed the trajectory of the targeted asteroid,” he said.
The double-asteroid system offered an ideal target for the $330 million DART mission because the impact of the probe’s impact could be measured from Earth by precisely timing how the Moon’s orbital period around Didymos changed as a result of the collision. Neither asteroid poses any threat to Earth.
For the past two weeks, the Optical Telescope on Earth and in Space, along with two radar observatories, have been monitoring the asteroid pair on a close-hours basis, carefully tracking Dimorphos.
Before the impact, scientists estimated that Dart could reduce the moon’s orbital period by about 10 minutes. As it turned out, the energy provided by the spacecraft and the recoil of the blasted debris into space took 32 minutes off the orbital period, changing it from 11 hours and 55 minutes to 11 hours and 23 minutes.
“For the first time, humanity has changed the orbit of a planetary body. For the first time,” said Lori Glaze, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters. “The Dart mission has demonstrated that we are able to deflect an asteroid of this size, even a potentially hazardous asteroid, by using a kinetic impactor technique.”
But timing is everything, she said. A dangerous body is detected, and the farther it is from Earth, the less force is needed to nudge it when an impactor reaches it.
Nancy Chabot, DART science coordinator at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, said, “To put this in perspective … it’s a 4 percent change in the orbital period of Dimorphos around Didymos, and it gave it a small jolt. ” Maryland.
“But if you want to do this in the future, it could potentially work, but you’ll want to do it years in advance. The warning timing to enable this kind of asteroid deflection to potentially be used is really here.” The future is important as part of a much larger planetary defense strategy.”
While the impact is behind them, the DART team is still hard at work, studying the still-visible ejecta plume to learn more about the composition of dimorphos, whether the impact is a stagger, reducing the density and possibly mass. to asteroids and to refine models of how such bodies respond to impacts.
“All this information plays into our understanding of what really happened in the experiment,” said Tom Statler, DART program scientist at NASA Headquarters. “How effectively did the kinetic impact change the motion of the asteroid? How efficiently was the motion transferred?
“It’s too early to say, there are a lot of moving parts in this calculation. But it appears that the retreat from the ejecta ejected from the surface was a significant contributor to the overall push given to the asteroid. … So much is yet to come. Is.”