The world’s first comprehensive planetary defence test against probable asteroid impacts on Earth is being conducted by NASA as part of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission. Researchers have recently demonstrated that the DART spacecraft’s landing on its target might leave the asteroid almost completely unrecognisable rather than just a relatively modest hole.
The dinosaur extinction, which occurred 66 million years ago, was probably brought on by a massive asteroid impact on Earth. No known asteroid poses an immediate hazard right now. But if a sizable asteroid were to be found one day headed straight for Earth, it might need to be diverted from its route to avoid disastrous effects.
Researchers from the University of Bern and the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS have simulated this impact using a new methodology in a study that was just published in The Planetary Science Journal. According to their findings, it might damage its target much more severely than previously believed.
“Contrary to what one might imagine when picturing an asteroid, direct evidence from space missions like the Japanese space agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 probe demonstrate that asteroid can have a very loose internal structure — similar to a pile of rubble — that is held together by gravitational interactions and small cohesive forces,” says study lead-author Sabina Raducan from the Institute of Physics and the National Centre of Competence in Research PlanetS at the University of Bern.
However, earlier models for the DART mission’s impact suggested that the interior of the asteroid target Dimorphos was far more solid.As part of the HERA space project, the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch a space probe to Dimorphos in 2024. The objective is to visually examine the impact aftermath of the DART investigation.