New data suggests that the asteroid Demorphos is behaving in unexpected ways after colliding with a NASA rocket last year.
Recent observations of the approximately 580-foot (177-meter) wide space rock – published by NASA Intentionally collided with a spaceship On September 26, 2022, as part of the Double Asteroid Reorientation Test (DART) mission – it showed that Demorphos might be stuck in its normally stable orbit around parent asteroid Didymos, according to new world. Dimorphos also appears to decelerate continuously in its orbit for at least a month after the rocket’s impact, contrary to NASA’s expectations.
California high school teacher Jonathan Swift and his students first discovered these unexpected changes while observing dimorphos with their school’s 2.3-foot (0.7-meter) telescope last fall. Several weeks after the DART impact, NASA announced that Demorphos had slowed in its orbit around Didymos by about 33 minutes. However, when Swift and his students studied Dimorphos one month after the impact, the asteroid appeared to have slowed by an extra minute, indicating that it had been decelerating continuously since the impact.
“The number we got was a little bit larger, a change of 34 minutes,” Swift told New Scientist. “That was inconsistent on an uncomfortable level.”
Related: Can an asteroid destroy Earth?
Swift presented his class’s findings at the American Astronomical Society conference in June. The DART team has since confirmed that Dimorphos did indeed continue to decelerate in its orbit for up to a month after the collision, however, their calculations show an additional deceleration of 15 seconds, rather than a full minute. A month after the Dart collision, the deceleration stabilized.
What caused the dimorphos to slow steadily for a month before reaching equilibrium? A swarm of space rocks could be to blame: recent observations of the asteroid revealed A Wide field of rocks – It was likely shaken off the surface of Dimorphos during the impact – and scattered in the area. Some large rocks likely fell back onto Dimorphos during the first month, slowing its orbit more than expected, DART team member said. Harrison Agrusa He told New Scientist magazine.
The DART team plans to release its own report on the unexpected findings in the coming weeks. However, full answers may have to wait until 2026, when the European Space Agency’s Hera spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at Dimorphos to investigate the cosmic crash site up close.
Read more about the new Dimorphos groove at new world.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”