NASA succeeded in changing the orbit of the asteroid Dimorphos. NASA crashes itin Dimorphos a few weeks ago to try out a possible method of defending the Earth from a dangerous body in an encounter with our planet.
“This is a watershed moment for planetary defense and a watershed moment for humanity,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said while confirming the asteroid redirect at a press conference Tuesday.
To be clear, this was just a test of one potential defense method, called “deflection by impactor motion,” which doesn’t require nuclear weapons or celebrities in a mission a la popular Hollywood suicide movies like 1998’s Armageddon. Dimorphos, which is actually targeting the larger asteroid Didymos orbiting the moon, does not pose an actual threat to Earth. Forbut there are still rocks and comets, and there is an abundance of places discovered or investigated by astrologers.
DART impact with Dimorphos on Sept. 26. seems to have reduced the time of the moon’s orbit around Didymos by 32 minutes, from 11 hours and 55 minutes to 11 hours and 23 minutes, with an uncertain margin of about two minutes. NASA had hoped that DART would change the orbital period by at least 73 seconds, but had hoped that the orbit could change by at least a few minutes and possibly ten minutes. So it happens in the deep part of things.
“It looks like the recoil from the ejecta fired from the surface was a substantial contributor to the overall thrust of the asteroid, in addition to the direct impact of space,” said Tom Statler, program scientist at NASA’s DART headquarters.
The technical term was ejected due to the dust and debris thrown into space due to the impact. Numerous images taken in the following days showed the impact by telescopes in space and on Earthsomething similar to what we see with comets orbiting the sun.
Nancy Chabot, the co-ordinator of the study from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, noted that although the results are considered a resounding success, they represent only a 4 percent change in the asteroid’s orbital period.
“This is just a small nut, but if you wanted to do this in the future, it could potentially work, but you’d want to do it years ago. The warning time is really key.”
Chabot added that the physical location of Dimorphos was also slightly altered and that the space between the stone now orbits Didymos a little closer than before the impact.
Scientists on the chest team continue to acquire more data from observations around the world to better understand the impact of the movement and its effects.
A decade later, the European space agency Hera intends to send another spacecraft to conduct detailed explorations of Dimorphos and Didymos, among the impact craters left behind by VERTU.
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