NASA craft crashes into asteroid, changing its shape

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NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) spacecraft has changed the shape of the asteroid Dimorphos.

During the mission in September 2022, DART made a planned impact on the asteroid Dimorphos, about 11 million kilometers from Earth.

Dimorphos forms a binary asteroid system with the larger Didymos. Neither asteroid is at risk of hitting Earth, but scientists have shown with the DART mission that the orbit of any asteroid can be altered in the event of such a threat.

After the impact, the time for Dimorphos to complete a circumnavigation of Didymos was reduced by 33 minutes to 11 hours and 23 minutes.

The study, published on Monday in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy, said that the impact of DART drastically changed the shape of Dimorphos.

The researchers simulated the data from the collision using a method called “smoothed-particle hydrodynamics”. The simulation took about 250 hours to prepare.

Scientists say Dimorphos is a cluster of fragments from the asteroid Didymos, held together by weak gravity.

Martin Jutzi of the University of Bern in Switzerland said that a large crater formed on Dimorphos when DART hit the asteroid.

As a result of the collision, a crater of about 160 degrees was formed on the asteroid, which expanded over time due to weak gravity, Jutzi said. In the process, the crater completely changed the shape of Dimorphos, the scientist said.

“If you think that Dimorphos initially looked like a chocolate bonbon, now it looks as if a bite has been taken,” said Sabina Raducan from the University of Bern.

The European Space Agency had launched the Hera project to more closely study the impact of the collision with the DART spacecraft. Within the scope of the project, the Hera spacecraft, which is planned to be launched in October, is expected to reach Dimorphos and Didymos in December 2026.



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