According to the US space agency, a successful attempt to divert an asteroid from its course by causing a satellite to hit with it in 2022 resulted in the launch of dozens of rock fragments into orbit.
NASA said photographs taken by the Hubble space telescope show a “swarm of boulders” ejected after the collision, which was intended to test a planetary defense strategy, in a news release on Thursday.
The boulders are moving mass and energy away from the hit target in a cloud. According to planetary scientist David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles, who uses Hubble to monitor changes in the asteroid, “the numbers, sizes, and shapes of the boulders are consistent with their having been knocked off the surface of Dimorphos [the asteroid] by the impact.”
This explains to us for the first time what occurs when an asteroid is struck and material of the greatest sizes is released. Some of the weakest objects ever captured on camera in our solar system are the boulders.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) program, which included the September hit, was designed to test whether scientists could change the course of spacecraft.
The experiment in September was hailed as a success after the satellite successfully changed its path after colliding with the asteroid at a speed of roughly 22,530 kilometers per hour (14,000 miles per hour). According to Jewitt, the impact formed a crater that was 50 meters (160 feet) broad.The method may eventually be used to deflect asteroids headed for potentially disastrous impacts with Earth, according to scientists.
The process could result in a lot of boulders, as seen in Thursday’s Hubble photographs, but those rocks don’t seem dangerous. According to Jewitt, the stones created in September are currently traveling at a scary 1 km/h (0.5 mph), which is comparable to the speed of a huge turtle.
There were roughly 37 boulders total, measuring anything from 0.9 meters (3 feet) to 6.7 meters (22 feet).