The US space agency expects to create a small crater, but new research suggests it will change the moon beyond recognition.
The DART spacecraft was launched last November. This mission has a special purpose. The spacecraft will head to the asteroid Didymos and crash into its moon in an attempt to change its orbit. NASA hopes to give the moon a ‘little boost’. But new simulations show that DART may hit the moon with more force than intended.
World Asteroid Day
Today is World Asteroid Day. An annual action day, created to raise awareness about the dangers and dangers of asteroids. It is no coincidence that World Asteroid Day is celebrated on June 30. On June 30, 1908, the Tunguska eruption occurred near the Stony Tunguska River in Siberia. As a result of the explosion, trees within a radius of 30-40 kilometers at the base of the trunk were shattered. The cause of the explosion remains much speculation, although it is highly suspected that it was the result of an asteroid.
DART . space probe (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) On its way to the asteroid Didymos about seven months ago. Didymus (Greek for twins) is a binary system consisting of two parts. Didymos A has a diameter of 780 meters. Around Didymos A, a smaller celestial body about 160 meters long. This moon, called Dimorphos, completes one orbit every 11 hours 55 minutes.
The intent of the DART spacecraft is to intentionally smash itself into the young moon, changing the orbit of the Dimorphos. And since Dimorphos are part of a binary system, it is relatively easy to compute the modified path after DART hits it. Scientists hope to learn more about whether this technique, in which the direction of a space rock is deflected by collision, is a practical strategy. In this way, space rocks on a collision course with Earth can be avoided in the future. In short, the mission will help us better understand how to protect our precious planet from a potentially dangerous future.
So the idea is that the DART spacecraft will hit the Dimorphos moon. And at a speed of more than 6 km / s (about nine times faster than a bullet). By the way, Dimorphos is not supposed to be completely detonated; The US space agency only expects to create a small crater. The researchers hope that the impact will result in only a small change in the moon’s orbit.
New simulations have been published in Planetary Science JournalHowever, she now points out, the consequences could be much greater. “Contrary to what one might imagine for an asteroid, direct evidence from the Japanese space mission Hayabusa2, among other things, shows that asteroids have a very loose internal structure,” said study leader Sabina Radokan. “This loose ‘debris’ is held together by gravity, among other things.”
However, previous simulations of the effect of the DART task assumed a more stable internal presence in Dimorphos. This may be a mistake. If it later turns out that Dimorphos also consists mainly of loose material, DART will hit him much harder than intended. “So this could radically change the outcome of the collision,” stresses Radokan.
Rather than leaving a small crater on the 160-meter-wide asteroid, the DART impact at 24,000 kilometers per hour could completely deform Demorphos and even alter it beyond recognition, the researchers say. This means that the asteroid is deflecting more forcefully. In addition, much more material will be disposed of than expected.
There is nothing more to do
However, there is nothing else that can be done at the moment. Didymus is expected to pass through Earth next fall. And the researchers devised it in such a way that DART would hit Dimorphos at that exact moment. Because this happens relatively close to Earth, scientists can study the deadly effect of DART and its direct consequences using telescopes from Earth and in space.
Next, CubeSat HERA will be launched in 2024, which will further investigate in the aftermath of the bombing. The satellite will approach the surface of the moon up to 200 meters. This allows Hera to produce high-resolution images – 2 cm per pixel. And then we’ll also find out how dangerous Dimorphos is after the collision.
“To get the most out of the HERA mission, we need to understand the potential impact of the collision,” said researcher Martin Goetsi. Our work therefore adds an important potential scenario that forces us to expand our expectations in this regard. This is not only important in the context of planetary defense, but it also broadens our understanding of asteroids in general. “
…about the exciting DART mission? read in it This article Previously featured on Scientias.nl, it’s all about!
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