First Planetary Defense Mission was a Success

First Planetary Defense Mission was a Success

First Planetary Defense Mission was a Success https://asteroidday-uploads.s3.eu-central-1.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/20221212/success.png 512 288 Asteroid Day Asteroid Day https://asteroidday-uploads.s3.eu-central-1.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/20221212/success.png

Studies published in the Nature journal have revealed new details about the DART spacecraft’s successful impact. Observations of ejected debris and calculations of the asteroid Dimorphos’ orbital changes confirm that the asteroid and other near-Earth objects redirection is an effective planetary defence measure.

Among the published details, as DART hurtled towards the asteroid at more than 6 kilometres per second, the first part of its hit was one of its solar panels, which slammed into a 6.5-metre-wide rock. Microseconds later, the spacecraft’s main body collided with the rocky surface next to the boulder, shattering it.

On the left, illustration of the DART spacecraft at the exact location of the impact on the asteroid Dimorphos. On the right, digital terrain model of the impact site made from DART images. The white line shows the probe’s trajectory before impact (NASA/Johns Hopkins – APL)

The impact ejected at least a million kilograms of rock from the asteroid’s mass, but did not destroy it. This debris formed a tail that stretched for tens of thousands of kilometres. Several telescopes watched for weeks how the tail moved and evolved under the pressure of the sun’s rays, including the Hubble Space Telescope which even detected a second tail, disappearing a few weeks after impact.

Hubble Space Telescope captured a time-lapse video of the DART mission’s immediate aftermath. Credit: NASA / ESA / STScI / Jian-Yang Li / Joseph DePasquale)

The shortening of Dimorphos’s orbit after the impact has been adjusted to 33 minutes according to published studies. The impact did not alter Didymos’s orbital period around the asteroid duo’s centre of mass, which is still 2.26 hours.

The researchers continue to work with the probe’s data to learn more about the asteroid system’s physics, chemistry and geology. A network of amateur astronomers also contributed to the released results, observing the asteroids through their telescopes before, during and after impact.

In 2024 the European Space Agency will launch the Hera mission to Dimorphos and they will have a close-up view of the crater left by DART and the aftermath of its impact.

Learn more about this event and asteroid deflect methods:
NASA’s DART spacecraft successfully hits asteroid Dimorphos
LEARN – How could we deflect an asteroid?