NASA has officially confirmed the successful completion of the first-ever planetary defense test, known as DART.
As we previously reported, on 27 September, NASA carried out a historic mission to try to divert the path of an asteroid orbiting a larger celestial object. To do this, they deliberately guided one of their satellites into Dimorphos, which is about 160 meters in diameter and located about 11.3 million kilometers from Earth. The very fact that ground controllers were able to hit such a relatively small target was alredy a huge success, but the actual outcome of the mission was uncertain. It took about two weeks to confirm the result, because the aim was to change the 12-hour orbit of Dimorphos by at least 73 seconds, thus close observation was required. However, it has since been shown that expectations have been far exceeded, as the asteroid’s orbiting time has been reduced by 32 minutes, from 11 hours 55 minutes to 11 hours 23 minutes. Scientists will continue to monitor Dimorphos for a long time to come, sending additional space probes to the asteroid to draw more accurate conclusions from the experiment.
Opening image: CTIO/NOIRLab/SOAR/NSF/AURA/T. Kareta (Lowell Observatory), M. Knight (US Naval Academy)