More than 2 MILLION pounds of rock were ejected from the asteroid during NASA’s DART mission
More than two million pounds of dusty rock flew into space during NASA’s epic DART mission, creating an illuminated trail that stretched thousands of miles behind the “moon beast” Dimorphos.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) on September 26 proved that humans could alter the trajectory of a dangerous asteroid en route to Earth.
The latest data show that the momentum transmitted when DART hit Dimorphos was about 3.6 times greater than if the asteroid had absorbed the spacecraft and produced no ejecta – suggesting the ejecta was more prone to movement of the asteroid than the spacecraft.
Andy Cheng, head of the DART investigation team, said the results were “good news” because the kinetic effect on the target was enough to change the asteroid’s orbit.
And in the case of this mission, Dimorphos’ orbit was changed by 33 minutes – NASA’s original goal was to save at least 10 minutes.
NASA has shared a new image from its September DART mission, showing the asteroid with a glowing debris trail behind it
The DART spacecraft impacted Dimorphos at a speed of 14,000 miles per hour and struck the asteroid head-on.
The spacecraft used kinetic impact, sending one or more large, high-speed spacecraft into the path of an approaching near-Earth object.
Before impact, Dimorphos took 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit its parent asteroid Didymos.
Andy Rivkin, co-lead of the DART investigation team at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL), said in a statement: “We know the first experiment worked. Now we can begin to apply this knowledge.
“Studying the ejecta from the kinetic impact – all of which originate from Dimorphos – is an important way to gain further insight into the nature of its surface.”
Pre-impact and post-impact observations show that the two cosmic objects have a similar makeup and consist of the same material associated with common chondrites, identical to the most common type of meteorites that hit Earth.
These measurements also took advantage of the ejecta from Dimorphos, which dominated the light reflected from the system in the days following the impact.
Telescopic images of the Didymos system are already showing how solar radiation pressure has stretched the ejecta stream into a comet-like tail tens of thousands of kilometers long.
Using this information, the scientists assumed that Didymos and Dimorphos had the same density and calculated the momentum transmitted when DART hit Dimorphos.
Predicting momentum transfer is key for future planning of other kinetic impact missions, as experts need this data to develop the size of the vehicle needed to knock the asteroid out of its orbit and determine the lead time.
“Momentum transfer is one of the most important things we can measure because it’s the information we would need to develop an impactor mission to deflect a menacing asteroid,” said Cheng, also at Johns Hopkins APL .
The impact was recorded by telescopes on the ground. Didymos appears to glow in this image captured by New Zealand’s Ōtehīwai Mt. John Observatory
“Understanding how a spacecraft impact will alter the dynamics of an asteroid is key to designing a mitigation strategy for a planetary defense scenario.”
DART launched last November aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in what has been dubbed NASA’s “Armageddon moment.”
DART “is sort of like a re-run of Bruce Willis’ movie Armageddon, even though it was entirely fictional,” Nelson said in a November interview, referring to the 1998 film in which teams travel to an asteroid en route to Earth traveled hoping to destroy him before impact.
Didymos and Dimorphos have been the closest approach to Earth in years, passing at a distance of about 6.7 million miles from our planet, making them a viable target for the mission.
Moment of Impact: The DART spacecraft crashed head-on into the asteroid, splitting the final image before being blown to bits
An asteroid the size of Dimorphos could wreak continent-wide destruction on Earth, while the effects of an asteroid the size of the larger Didymos would be felt worldwide.
NASA emphasized that the asteroids pose no threat to our home planet, but they were chosen because they can be observed by ground-based telescopes here on Earth.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is launching a mission in 2024 that will send a probe to Dimorphos and Didymos to study the pair in more detail.
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The aftermath of NASA’s first planetary defense test has also been revealed: The stunning photo shows a 6,200-mile debris trail from the asteroid Dimorphos in the wake of the DART spacecraft collision
And the first images of the DART asteroid crash, captured by the tiny LICIACube satellite, show the incredible moment the NASA spacecraft smashed into Dimorphos and its bright, chaotic aftermath
Explanation of humanity’s first planetary defense mission
DART is the world’s first planetary defense test mission.
It consists of a satellite that crashed into the small lunar asteroid Dimorphos, which orbits a larger companion asteroid named Didymos.
The satellite intentionally crashed into the asteroid, slightly changing its orbit.
Dimorphos is about 525 feet in diameter, and while it poses no threat to Earth, NASA wants to measure the asteroid’s altered orbit caused by the collision.
Post-impact observations from ground-based optical telescopes and planetary radars measured the change in Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos, revealing that the trajectory had changed by 33 minutes.
This demonstration of planetary defenses will inform future missions that may one day save Earth from a deadly asteroid impact.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-11546629/More-2-MILLION-pounds-rock-ejected-asteroid-NASAs-DART-mission.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 More than 2 MILLION pounds of rock were ejected from the asteroid during NASA’s DART mission