Didymos is a binary asteroid system: a pair of innocent, lumpy rocks minding their very own enterprise as they spin by way of space. NASA’s DART mission needs to crash a spaceship into them. The smaller asteroid within the system, often known as Dimorphos, is the goal of a NASA mission to show its growing planetary protection strategies. While Didymos just isn’t risk to Earth, this know-how may shield Earth from different space rocks which may be extra harmful.
What is Didymos?
The pair of asteroids collectively are often known as Didymos, however individually the 2 rocks are Didymos and Dimorphos. Didymos is a big asteroid round half a mile (2,560 ft or 780 meters) in size, whereas Dimorphos measures a mere 525 ft (160 m), in line with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL), the place the DART mission relies. In some earlier protection from Space.com, Dimorphos has been known as Didymos’ moonlet or as “Didymoon.”
As the 2 asteroids orbit the sun, Dimorphos additionally orbits Didymos, circling its bigger twin each 11 hours and 55 minutes.
For many years, telescopes on Earth like Arecibo Observatory and Lowell Discovery Telescope have been in a position to observe that motion “just like clockwork,” mentioned planetary scientist Nancy Chabot of JHUAPL throughout a press convention held earlier than DART’s launch. As Dimorphos passes between Didymos and Earth, telescopes across the globe can measure the ensuing change in brightness from the system.
Why does NASA wish to crash into Didymos?
The clockwork movement of the Didymos system makes it ideally suited for the DART mission, an illustration of NASA’s capability to redirect harmful asteroids off collision programs with Earth. Didymos itself poses no risk to our planet, however will function a check goal.
Researchers on Earth will be capable to observe the impact of the DART spacecraft hurtling head-on into Dimorphos, the smaller asteroid. According to Chabot, after the impression they count on to see Dimorphos to finish a loop of Didymos some 10 minutes sooner than its historic schedule.
DART can also be carrying a cubesat that can movie the bigger spacecraft’s impression and beam the footage again to researchers on Earth.
At the time of DART’s impression, Didymos might be seen sufficient to be a great candidate for research and distant sufficient to be no hazard, at roughly 6.8 million miles (11 kilometers) away from Earth.
What else can we learn about Didymos?
Didymos is without doubt one of the Amor group of asteroids, near-Earth asteroids named after asteroid 1221 Amor. These asteroids orbit the sun principally between the orbits of Earth and Mars. Didymos specifically takes somewhat over two years to finish an elliptical orbit across the sun, in line with NASA‘s in-depth web page on Didymos.
The bigger asteroid of Didymos most likely has a rocky floor lined in boulders, though NASA wrote that it possible lacks the regolith, or effective dust, that covers Earth’s moon and different asteroids. It additionally lacks any ambiance, rings, or magnetosphere.