NASA’s Dart mission may have thrown more than 2 million pounds of rock into space

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On September 26, NASA successfully completed phase one of a very futuristic endeavor: humanity’s first interplanetary defense system. Simply put, it’s the day the agency’s school bus-sized spacecraft, DART — which stands for Dual Asteroid Redirection Test — Smashed into a space rock Floating about 7 million miles from Earth. And do it in Amazing speedsreaches a speed of 14,000 mph (22,530 km/h).

The goal was to see if the collision could change the orbit of Dimorphos around a larger asteroid, Didymus. To be clear, neither Dimorphus nor Didymus ever posed any threat to our planet. Instead, it was NASA’s proof-of-principle experiment to show us that we might have a way to deflect asteroids on their way to Earth.Should such an issue ever arise?

And well, it worked.

After several weeks of post-impact analysis, scientists confirmed that DART had officially changed its target orbit by 33 minutes. But that wasn’t nearly the end of the story for this little craft. Thursday, Based on the initial results of the agency’s asteroid defense missionScientists suggest some other interesting results DART collision.

Most interestingly, they estimate that the crash carried more than 2 million pounds (1 million kilograms) of the asteroid’s dusty rock into space. In terms of context, the team says it’s enough to fill six or seven rail cars.

A sharp gray asteroid against the darkness of space

Our first close-up look at Dimorphos captured by the DART probe’s DRACO camera.


What’s next is studying the free-floating debris to decipher what the asteroid might be made of — with new tools like the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube — and connecting the dots to see if such information can shed light on any unresolved issues Our own solar system.

“What we can learn from the DART mission is all part of NASA’s overarching work to understand asteroids and other small objects in the solar system,” DART program scientist Tom Statler said in a statement. Hitting the asteroid was just the beginning. Now we’re using the observations to study what these bodies are made of and how they formed — as well as how to defend our planet if an asteroid hits our path.

The dark background of space (no stars) is seen with two bright points upwards.  Streams of dust and debris are seen emanating from one point.  This asteroid has been hit.

In the foreground is Didymus, the large asteroid that Dimorphos orbits. In the distant land is Dimorphos and all the rubble that the DART hit created.


So far, based on the Dimorphos mutation (which now bursts out of the shard. Comet-like tail, the DART team believes that Dimorphos and Didymos have a similar composition, consisting of what is known as chondrite, like 85 percent of all other meteorites we have encountered. Meteorites are the only asteroids that have They made their way to the surface of the earthso we know what their composition is — and typical Chondrite space rocks They are made of different types of stone materials.

“Studying the ejecta created in kinetic collisions—all of which are derived from dimorphos—is a key way to gain further insight into the nature of its surface,” said Andy Rivkin, DART research team leader at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics. lab, said in a statement.

Amazingly, the scientists also calculated that the momentum transferred between the spacecraft and the space rock when the DART hit Dimorphos, shaking up the dust giant, was about 3.6 times greater than a clean impact – meaning that if Dimorphos only absorbed spacecraft and produced nothing. Absolutely garbage

This is very interesting because it means that the launch did more to move the asteroid than the actual spacecraft.

Consequences of DART's encounter with Dimorphos

The aftermath of DART’s collision with Dimorphos is a 10,000 km (6,214 mi) long trail of dust recorded by the SOAR telescope here.

CTIO/NOIRLab/SOAR/NSF/AURA/T. Kareta/M. Knight / TA Chairman / M. When/d. D. Martin

“Momentum transfer is one of the most important things we can measure because it’s the information we need to develop an impactor mission to deflect a threatening asteroid,” said DART research team leader Andy Cheng of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Statement. Understanding how a spacecraft impact alters the motion of an asteroid is key to designing a mitigation strategy for a planetary defense scenario.

Bit by bit, it looks like NASA is entering its own Star Wars era.

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