First results from the NASA DART mission

(ORDO NEWS) — On September 26, NASA‘s DART spacecraft crashed into the asteroid Dimorph, changing its orbit by 33 minutes.

A team of scientists analyzed the ejection of asteroid rocks dislodged and launched into space as a result of the DART impact on Dimorph.

The scientists presented a preliminary interpretation of their findings during the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union on Dec. 15 in Chicago.

Central to this work are detailed scientific and engineering analyzes of the data obtained from the demonstration of planetary defense technology.

Scientists estimate that the DART impact threw more than one million kilograms of dusty rock into space.

The team is using this data, along with new information about the asteroid’s composition and ejection characteristics from observations from the telescope and the Italian LICIACube satellite, to find out how much the asteroid has moved due to the DART impact and how much due to the recoil.

“We know that the original experiment worked. Now we can start applying this knowledge,” said Andy Rivkin, co-lead of the DART research group at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).

“Studying the kinetic impact ejection that all comes from Dimorph is a key way to gain further insight into the nature of its surface.”

Observations before and after the collision show that Dimorph and its parent asteroid Didyme have a similar composition and are composed of material associated with ordinary chondrites.

The study also accounted for the Dimorph ejection, which dominated reflected light from the system for several days after the impact.

Even now, images taken by the telescope show how the ejecta stream stretched out into a comet-like tail tens of thousands of kilometers long.

The team calculated that the momentum transferred by the impact was about 3.6 times greater than if the asteroid had simply swallowed the spacecraft and not produced the ejection, indicating that the ejection contributed more to the asteroid’s displacement.

Accurate momentum transfer prediction is central to planning a future kinetic impact mission, including determining the size of the spacecraft and estimating the time needed to deflect a potentially hazardous asteroid from its path.

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