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NASA mission. The DART probe hit an asteroid. She turned her into a “completely different body”

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The DART probe, which almost a year and a half ago, in the first test of planetary defense, hit the asteroid Dimorphos, did not leave an impact crater on it, but probably changed its shape – say scientists in the journal “Nature Astronomy”. They ran hundreds of simulations to recreate the effects of this intentional collision.

At the end of September 2022, the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) probe hit the asteroid Dimorphos. It was the first-ever test of planetary defense, the aim of which was to check how impacting a small celestial body, potentially threatening Earth, would change its course.

Dimorphos is a small satellite with a diameter of 160 meters that is a moon of the larger one asteroids Didymos. None of them posed or pose a threat to Earth, but they were considered an ideal target to test the possibility of modifying the course of the space rock, as Dimorphos’ size is comparable to asteroids that may pose a threat to our planet. The collision occurred at a speed of 21,160 kilometers per hour, and the probe’s mass was approximately half a ton.

The test was a success and better than expected. The orbital time of Dimorphos around the second asteroid has been shortened by 32 minutes, although – as it was noted – it would be a great success to slow down the orbit by about 10 minutes.

Read more: NASA mission success. “For the first time, humanity has changed the trajectory of a celestial body”

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The impact could have changed the shape of the asteroid

Scientists have just announced that as a result of the controlled collision of the probe with the asteroid, no crater was created on its surface, but the entire shape of the object changed. The study describing this discovery was published on Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.

A team of astronomers from the University of Bern conducted hundreds of simulations to check the effects of the probe’s impact. They show that Dimorphos is a loose collection of rocky material ejected from the asteroid Didymos. It was established that there are no large boulders on its surface. Due to the large distance of Dimorphos from Earth, its composition was previously unknown.

Scientists’ calculations showed that as a result of the collision, about one percent of the material making up the asteroid was thrown into space, while eight percent changed its location, leading to a change in the shape of the space rock.

“He will discover a completely different body”

Another probe is to be sent to the Dimorphos asteroid in October this year. According to the plan, Hera will reach it in 2026. This is a mission of the European Space Agency (ESA0), whose aim is to thoroughly investigate the consequences of the collision.

“Hera probably won’t be able to find any crater left by DART,” admitted Dr. Sabina Raducan from the University of Bern. “Instead, he will discover a completely different body,” she added.

Read also: The Earth can probably be saved from an asteroid. Lessons from the DART mission

CNN, space.com, tvnmeteo.pl

Main photo source: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

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