Wednesday, October 12, 2022

NASA successfully alters asteroid orbit

Via the New York Times

NASA took aim at an asteroid last month, and on Tuesday, the space agency announced that its planned 14,000-mile-per-hour collision with an object named Dimorphos made even more of a bull’s-eye shot than expected...

...The spacecraft not only connected with Dimorphos, it altered the space rock’s orbit, shortening its trip around a larger asteroid by 32 minutes.

That time shift was exactly what the DART mission aimed to accomplish. Scientists hoped the collision would push Dimorphos closer to Didymos and speed up its orbit, and they have been crunching data and taking more observations of the double-asteroid system to understand how effective this particular defense mechanism was. Scientists, according to Mr. Nelson, would have considered DART a huge success if it had only shortened Dimorphos’s orbit by 10 minutes. The reality — around three times that shift — delighted the team that managed the mission.

This seems like good news all around, although I presume that the trick will be spotting the relevant asteroid in time. It will be interesting to know if the United States Space Force will spend its future years standing on guard for asteroids approaching Earth...

1 comment:

  1. the orbital change was several times larger than hoped for because the impact site has been releasing gas - Dimorphos has been turned into a man-made comet. From pictures, Dimorphos looks like a rubble pile loosely held together by ices of frozen gases.
    [Btw, Dimorphos would be an excellent name of a phosphine ligand with two pendant morpholino substituents]


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