NASA’s DART alters asteroid’s course in ‘watershed moment for humanity’

NASA's DART alters asteroid's course in 'watershed moment for humanity'
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NASA has succeeded in this A mission to change the orbit of the asteroid Dimorphos, Space Agency Administrator Bill Nelson confirmed Tuesday. NASA crashed The Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft, aka DARTDimorphos a few weeks ago to test one of the possible ways to protect the Earth from a dangerous object in the event of a collision with our planet.

“This is a turning point for planetary defense and a turning point for humanity,” Nelson said during a press conference.

To be clear, this was a test of a potential defense method called “kinetic impact bending,” which doesn’t require nuclear weapons or celebrities in a suicide mission made famous by Hollywood movies like 1998’s Armageddon. Orbiting the larger asteroid Didymos, Dimorphos, which is actually a moon, poses no actual threat to Earth. In fact, actually, no known asteroids or near-Earth objects are considered a threat to humanitybut there are still many space rocks and comets that have not been discovered or tracked by astronomers.

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Effect of DART with Dimorphos in September. 26 reduced the time it took the moon to orbit Didymos from 32 minutes, 11 hours and 55 minutes to 11 hours and 23 minutes, with an uncertainty margin of about two minutes. NASA had hoped to change DART’s orbital period by at least 73 seconds, but expected it to be able to change its orbit by at least a few minutes and possibly tens of minutes. So the result is on the high side of the expected possibilities.

“It appears that the recoil of the ejecta from the surface was a significant contributor to the total thrust on the asteroid, in addition to the thrust from the directly impacting spacecraft,” said Tom Statler, DART program scientist at NASA headquarters.

Ejecta is the technical term for dust and debris thrown into space by an impact. Telescopes in space and on Earth showed numerous images taken in the days following the impact ejecta Dimorphos formed the tail behind It is similar to what we see in comets orbiting the Sun.

Nancy Chabot, DART coordination leader at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, noted that while the result is considered a major achievement, it still represents only a 4 percent change in the asteroid’s orbital period.

“It just gave a little nudge, but if you wanted to do it in the future, it could potentially work, but you’d want to do it years in advance. The lead time is critical.”

Chabot added that the physical location of Dimorphos has also changed slightly, with the space rock now orbiting Didymos a little tighter than before the impact.

Scientists on the DART team continue to gather more data from observatories around the world to better understand the dynamics of the impact and its effects.

Later in the decade, the European Space Agency’s Hera project It aims to send another spacecraft to conduct detailed studies on Dimorphos and Didymos, including studying the impact crater left by DART.

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