NASA will break a spacecraft into an asteroid. Things can get messy.
Led by Harrison Agrusa from the University of Maryland, the researchers modeled how DART would change the rotation or rotation of Dimorphos by calculating how the impact force would change the asteroid’s role, pitch, and yaw. The consequences can be dramatic. “It can start to fall apart and get into a chaotic situation,” Agrusa said. “It was really a big surprise.”
The unexpected turnaround presents some interesting challenges. This will add to the difficulty of landing the asteroid, which is expected in the ESA test with two small spacecraft on the Hera mission. Future deflection tests of an Earthbound asteroid could also be made more complicated, since any rotation could affect an asteroid’s path through space.
If the DART slams Dimorphos, the force of the impact will be comparable to three tons of TNT exploding, sending thousands of pieces of debris. spitting in the void. Statler describes it as a golf cart traveling at 15,000 miles per hour crashing into the side of a football stadium. The force of the impact does not cause any immediate change in Dimorphos ’rotation, but in a few days things will start to change, according to Agrusa and his tem.
Soon, Dimorphos will start to wobble a bit. This wobble grows and grows as the momentum from the impact passes through the Dimorphos’s rotation out of balance, with no turbulence in space to slow it down. Dimorphos can start spinning one way and another. It can start rotating along its long axis, like a rotisserie. To a Didymos observer looking at the sky, this seemingly silent satellite will take on a new form-begin to sway roots, its hidden sides now visible.
For a few weeks, Dimorphos can turn around so well that it enters a chaotic state where it spins uncontrollably with its axes. In more severe situations, the tidal lock with Didymos can be completely broken and Dimorphos can start flipping its head, according to Agrusa.
Exactly what happens will depend on a few things. The shape of Dimorphos plays an important part – if it is much taller than spherical, it will move even more chaotic. Radar observations so far suggest it’s high, but we won’t know until just a few hours before DART hits, if it will get the first look at its small target.