Almost a year into its success, NASA’s DART mission, which successfully tested the redirection of an asteroid, continues to be the talk of the town. The experiment continues to reveal new information which could be crucial for future space missions.
The main goal of DART was to test the possibility of deflecting Dimorphos’ trajectory using a kinetic impact to protect Earth from a possible collision with meteorites. However, this test also brought with it an unexpected discovery: the collision changed the asteroid’s orbital period.
Originally, Dimorphos had an orbital period (the time it takes for an object such as a planet or moon to orbit another larger object) of 11 hours and 55 minutes around Didymos. After the impact, this period was reduced to 11 hours and 23 minutes, or 32 minutes less. With further calculations The reduction has been adjusted to 33 minutes, with a margin of error of 18 seconds.
But according to a new study its orbital period is now 34.2 minutes.
The original orbital period observations were made between 20 and 30 days after impact Therefore, there is a possibility that the asteroid experienced acceleration in the days following the first observations.
A group of students are behind the discovery
This new discovery about dimorphos does not come from a team of professional astronomers, but was made using a modest telescope at the Thacher School, a secondary educational institution. This initiative was led by a teacher and his group of students.
However, the project is published in the ArXiv repository still needs to be checked from the rest of the scientific community as they require review despite “promising” results.
To learn more about the consequences of DART on Dimorphos, the European Space Agency (ESA) is currently working on the HERA mission. This mission is scheduled for October 2024 and will fly to the Didymos system, where it will arrive in December 2026.
Its main objective will be to carry out detailed analyzes of the changes caused both in the system and in the asteroid Dimorphos, collecting data on its orbital period but also on its environment, the remains left by the impact, etc the craters created by the collision.