Asteroid hit by Earth defence test behaving strangely

The Dimorphos asteroid has been behaving unexpectedly since it collided with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart) spacecraft, BBC reports.

In September 2022, Nasa and SpaceX intentionally crashed the Dart spacecraft into the asteroid to determine whether it could redirect the course of an asteroid threatening Earth.

However, a teacher and his class studying the asteroid discovered that the rock has moved strangely and unexpectedly since the collision.

The Dimorphos asteroid is in orbit around a much larger asteroid — Didymos.

The collision successfully altered Dimorphos’ orbit by “tens of metres”. However, the teacher and his students have noticed that Dimorphos’ orbit has continuously slowed since the impact.

Nasa will likely have to consider these findings if it launches another asteroid redirection mission.

The Dart mission was initially only meant to launch in November 2022. However, the launch was brought forward, and it slammed into the asteroid at 14,000 miles per hour (22,530 kilometres per hour) on 26 September.

It was designed to test a defence system to redirect asteroids that pose a threat of colliding with Earth.

While the asteroid was of no threat to the planet (it would have bypassed Earth safely in 2022 and 2024), Nasa has identified at least 23 objects that could collide with Earth over the next 100 years.

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Asteroid hit by Earth defence test behaving strangely