The asteroid Dimorphos was the target of humanity’s first test of a planetary defense strategy, which occurred on September 22, 2022, when NASA’s DART mission collided with it. Additionally, it was the first time ever that a celestial object’s motion was successfully altered by our species. The Hubble Telescope has now discovered yet another effect of the impact.
With the help of the powerful telescope, astronomers found a ring of rocks that may have been shaken loose when the half-ton DART spacecraft slammed into Dimorphos at a speed of more than 22,000 kph. The 37 rocks that Hubble found range in size from around one meter to about seven meters. At a pace of just less than one kilometer per hour, they are edging away from the asteroid.
This insight is spectacular and much better than I had anticipated. A cloud of boulders is visible, deflecting mass and energy from the collision target. The rocks’ quantity, dimensions, and forms are compatible with their having been thrown from Dimorphos’ surface by the impact. This reveals to us for the first time what occurs when an asteroid is struck and material of the biggest sizes is released. According to planetary scientist David Jewitt, who is monitoring Dimorphos, the stones are some of the weakest objects ever seen within our solar system.
The boulders were presumably already dispersed across the surface of the small asteroid, according to NASA, rather than being fragments that broke off from it.
Dimorphos orbits the bigger asteroid Didymos, which is why the DART mission chose it in the first place since it would be simpler to determine how its velocity will alter in relation to the bigger asteroid.
The 37 asteroids discovered by Dimorphos may have formed from material that was shaken off Didymos, according to current scientific speculation. Didymos must have spun out of control or hit something for this to happen. It’s possible that the material that was expelled formed a ring before coming together to form Dimorphos. Dimorphos would essentially be a flying pile of debris kept together by a weak gravitational force, according to this conclusion.