Sci/Tech The Asteroid Dimorphos Looks Totally Different After NASA's DART Mission Walloped It

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The tiny asteroid was left deformed after the spacecraft slammed into it at a high rate of speed.

In September 2022, a NASA spacecraft smashed into a tiny asteroid to nudge it off its orbital course. The mission was a success in testing an asteroid deflection method that may come in handy one day, but rather than leaving behind an impact crater, the orbital collision changed the shape of the target asteroid altogether, revealing its fungible composition.

A team of researchers simulated the impact of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, to reveal how it likely transformed Dimorphos, a 558-foot-wide (170-meter) space rock that orbits its larger 2,625-foot-wide (800-meter) companion, Didymos. In a new study published in Nature Astronomy, the simulations show that the impact led to significant reshaping and resurfacing of the asteroid Dimorphos.

“Our simulations revealed that Dimorphos is probably a rubble-pile asteroid,” Sabina Raducan, a planetary scientist at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and lead author of the study, told Gizmodo in an email. “Before DART’s arrival at Dimorphos, we didn’t know what to expect because the system is so far away from Earth.”

NASA’s 1,340-pound spacecraft smashed into the moonlet on September 26, 2022, following a 10 month journey to the binary asteroid system. Datasets gathered by ground-based optical and radio telescopes show that, following the collision, Dimorphos’s orbital period around Didymos shortened from 11 hours and 55 minutes to 11 hours and 23 minutes.

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