NASA’s first planetary defense mission last year inadvertently led to the release of a boulder swarm comparable in impact to Hiroshima, researchers have revealed.
NASA’s First Planetary Defense Mission
According to Mail online, in the first planetary defense mission trial last year, NASA effectively shifted the course of asteroid Dimorphos. Nevertheless, this maneuver unexpectedly triggered the release of a boulder cluster due to the collision. In the course of the same planetary defense mission, NASA inadvertently unleashed a boulder assemblage with a comparable impact to Hiroshima. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have detected approximately 37 rocks, some with widths reaching up to 22 feet, expelled from the surface of the moonlet Dimorphos subsequent to the spacecraft’s impact, as detailed in the Daily Mail’s report.
The initiative, named the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), was designed to modify the trajectory of the moonlet in order to avert a potential collision with Earth in the event of an approaching asteroid. Experts highlighted that the first planetary defense mission highlighted the potential for unintended consequences in deflection strategies, which could inadvertently redirect smaller rocks towards a collision trajectory with Earth.
Additional information regarding the First Planetary Defense Mission and additional possibilities
In 2022, NASA initiated the first planetary defense mission with the purpose of altering the orbital path of Dimorphos, which orbits its parent asteroid Didymos. On September 26, observers worldwide witnessed DART’s propulsion at a velocity of 15,000 miles per hour towards Dimorphos, resulting in a reduction of its orbital period from 11 hours and 55 minutes to 11 hours and 23 minutes upon impact.
Jewitt highlighted that a 15-foot boulder impacting Earth at high velocity would release energy comparable to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Luckily, neither Dimorphos nor the boulder aggregation have ever posed a risk to Earth’s well-being.
Dimorphos is six million miles away from Earth, but NASA chose it for testing despite the fact that it poses no threat to it. Utilizing the powerful Hubble telescope, scientists scrutinized the boulders, among the least detectable objects in the solar system. The team’s hypothesis suggests that these boulders were either ejected from the impact location or propelled from the surface as a result of seismic motion.