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The shape of the asteroid Demorphos changed after it was bombed by NASA

The shape of the asteroid Demorphos changed after it was bombed by NASA

This is what Dimorphos looked like seconds before impact.

© NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

When NASA launches a spacecraft on its DART mission in September 2022 Asteroid Dimorphos They really wanted to show that they were Deviation of asteroids from their orbit Could you. This could be very useful in the future, especially if a large asteroid is on a collision course with Earth.

➤ Read more: DART mission: Hubble images reveal 'breathtaking surprise'

However, researchers recently discovered that the planet's orbit is not only… A large asteroid, 170 meters long change. The shape of the celestial body was also affected by the impact.

The ball becomes a watermelon

Before the impact, Dimorphos was orbiting the larger moon-like asteroid Didymos at a distance of just over a kilometer. 11 hours and 55 minutes A complete circumnavigation was needed. After the collision, it got closer to its companions, and the orbit time became accurate 33 minutes and 15 seconds shorter.

His appearance has since changed from a more symmetrical one Ellipse of revolution – A flat sphere – transformed into a so-called triaxial ellipsoid. This can be seen as elongated watermelon He presents.

Dimorphos before and after the collision.

Dimorphos before and after the collision.

However, it is not easy to determine the shape of a large asteroid with a diameter of 170 meters, which is approximately… 11 million kilometers from Earth Located. However, telescopes on Earth can measure the “light curve” of Didymos and Demorphos.

Accurate measurements of light reflections

The two celestial bodies reflect sunlight, and because Demorphos orbits Didymos, it regularly throws off one Shadow on the partner asteroid. Didymos's light curve is tapering, which can be seen with telescopes on Earth.

➤ Read more: How to repel an asteroid: DART diagram in an interview

“We used the timing of these dips in the light curve to infer the shape of the orbit. Because our models were very sensitive, we were able to… Asteroid shape Discover”, Steve Chesley says, a senior researcher at JPL and a co-author of the study. “We never expected that we would achieve such accuracy.”

The Hera mission is scheduled to begin in October

The results of the observations also indicate that dimorphos is a bulk substance.”A pile of rubble“-object verbs, similar to Asteroid Bennu. The European Space Agency's Hera mission, which is scheduled to launch in October 2024, is expected to provide more precise details. A spacecraft will then travel to the pair of asteroids to further investigate and determine how accurate DART's reconstruction of dimorphos is.

➤ Read more: Asteroid Bennu: The sample contains water and carbon

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