Scientists say NASA’s DART Mission Not Only Changed the Path of an Asteroid, But Also Altered its Shape

NASA’s DART mission, which stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, made headlines when it successfully redirected a small asteroid named Dimorphos by slamming a spacecraft into it. This groundbreaking experiment showcased our ability to deflect potentially hazardous asteroids in the future.

Recent research indicates that the DART mission may have not only nudged Dimorphos off course but also significantly altered its shape. This discovery provides valuable insights into the formation of Dimorphos and suggests that the upcoming mission to study it will encounter a “reformed” asteroid rather than an impact crater.

To better understand the effects of the DART impact on Dimorphos, planetary scientist Sabina Raducan and her team conducted simulations. These simulations revealed that the asteroid did not sustain a crater but underwent a “global resurfacing,” indicating that Dimorphos is a weak, rubble-pile asteroid similar to others like Ryugu and Bennu.

The simulations also indicated that Dimorphos has a low density of around 2.4 grams per cubic centimeter, supporting the theory that it formed from debris shed by its parent asteroid, Didymos. The upcoming Hera mission by the European Space Agency will play a critical role in confirming these findings and providing further insights into asteroid evolution and formation.

This research not only sheds light on Dimorphos but also emphasizes the potential for similar asteroids to be easily reshaped. It underscores the importance of future asteroid exploration and deflection strategies, showcasing the unexpected discoveries that space exploration can offer even from meticulously planned missions.