After the Dart mission successfully deflected an asteroid, researchers took a look at a picture of Dimorphos.

After the Dart mission successfully deflected an asteroid, researchers took a look at a picture of Dimorphos.

Last September, a spacecraft deliberately collided with an asteroid 11 million kilometers from Earth. The goal: to simulate the deflection of an asteroid that threatens our planet. After many months of calculations and observations, astronomers have just published the first results of this mission.

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We knew the mission called Dart – like a dart in English – was a success. But astronomers have not yet revealed the results of their observations. This is now done in the journal nature And Patrick Michel, one of the French scientists on this program, repeats it: Mission a success.

>> Dart mission: a NASA spacecraft collided with an asteroid to deflect its trajectory, a historic precedent

As we remember, the spacecraft hit some kind of large pebble with a diameter of 150 meters at a speed of about 22,000 km / h. Its name: Dimorphos, it orbits a larger asteroid called Dydymos. Therefore, the influence of the spaceship made it possible to adjust the trajectory of Dimorphos, to adjust its orbit.

Flattened rugby ball

Thus, astronomers were able to estimate the momentum transmitted to the asteroid, which is not rugby ball-like as scientists first thought, but rather a flat rugby ball.

On the other hand, it is difficult to evaluate its composition. If astronomers were able to observe it closely thanks to the camera installed on the ship, it would seem that Dimorphos is a collection of rocks and dust rather than a homogeneous mass, but this has not yet been confirmed.

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To help scientists figure out whether Dimorphos deformed after the collision, they can count on the help of amateur astronomers. This is also one of the characteristics of this program. About thirty “citizen astronomers,” as they are called, co-signed one of the articles published by the professionals. Among these amateurs were four Frenchmen living in Réunion or Normandy, who watched the event, using their own telescopes, from their garden.

As for the professionals, they used, in particular, the famous Hubble and James Webb space telescopes. But the work isn’t finished as another space probe is scheduled to launch next year to join Dimorphos and Didymus. It will make it possible to observe in detail the consequences of a collision.

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