(ORDO NEWS) — At the end of September, NASA conducted the DART mission, during which the spacecraft was sent directly into the asteroid, which allowed it to change its orbit.
Now researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have a tool that could improve the aiming of future similar missions.
The team developed a method to map an asteroid’s internal structure, or density distribution, based on how the asteroid’s rotation changes when it collides closely with more massive objects like the Earth.
Knowing how density is distributed inside an asteroid could help scientists plan for the most effective defense.
For example, if an asteroid is composed of relatively light and homogeneous matter, then a DART-type spacecraft may be steered differently than if it were deflecting an asteroid with a denser, less balanced interior.
The team intends to apply this method to Apophis, an asteroid estimated to pose a significant hazard if it hits Earth.
Scientists have ruled out the possibility of a collision during the next flybys of Apophis for at least a century.
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