Last month, NASA did its first planetary defense mission by crashing a spaceship into an asteroid and changing its orbit.
Scientists at Stanford and MIT have developed a tool that could pave the way for a new and possibly superior method of detonating asteroids that threaten the Earth.
In a report released on Wednesday, researchers described a technique for mapping an asteroid’s interior in a way that makes it easier to determine the density and spin of the crater. According to researchers, knowing that could lead to a hit that is more precise.
According to Jack Dinsmore, the study’s primary author and currently a professor at Stanford University, “If you know the density distribution of the asteroid, you may hit it at just the right point so it really travels away.”
The team hopes to try this analysis technique on the asteroid Apophis, which is close to Earth. Although it is unlikely that it will collide with Earth for another century, if it does, the consequences might be disastrous.
In 2029, Apophysis will miss Earth. But we can’t keep clearing it, “remarked Dinsmore. If we need to adjust this asteroid’s route, we must know its composition.
NASA reported that the asteroid redirection test was a resounding success.
For a very long time, scientists, space organizations, and even Hollywood have speculated on what might occur if an asteroid hit Earth. In September, NASA carried out a Double Asteroid Redirection Test to determine whether it could, in an emergency, divert an asteroid away from the Earth.
A spacecraft was pointed at the Dimorphos asteroid as part of the project. It investigated whether launching a spacecraft known as a kinetic impactor would be powerful enough to jolt an approaching asteroid off course. The asteroid was thrown into a new orbit as a result of the successful test.
Before that voyage, Dinsmore developed his approach while studying at MIT. It all started with a straightforward inquiry: “What happens when an asteroid passes by Earth? Does it even respond?
In addition to simulating the various sizes and shapes of asteroids, he also created computer code that showed how their orbits and spins varied in response to the gravitational pull of Earth and other massive bodies. That made him wonder if the data could be used to forecast the size and shape of an asteroid.
Dinsmore collaborated with Julien de Wit, an assistant professor at MIT, and the two created more intricate computer code to map out the various shapes, sizes, and densities of asteroids. Additionally, they were able to determine how much an asteroid would spin or wobble when it passed huge objects, which helped them better grasp its composition.
NASA’s toaster-sized machine can produce oxygen on Mars.
De Wit compared it to the ability to distinguish between a raw and boiled egg. “The egg responds and spins differently when you spin it, depending on the characteristics of its interior. The same is true of an asteroid during a close encounter: By seeing how it reacts to the intense gravitational forces it encounters during a flyby, you can gain an understanding of what is happening on the inside.
Asteroid Interior Mapping from Encounters is a software toolkit that contains that code (AIME). They hope the software will enable scientists to better map the interior of an asteroid by examining how an asteroid spins during a near encounter with a massive object. This will help find the best spot to crash into an asteroid on future missions to target them.
NASA destroyed an asteroid in case Earth needs to subsequently destroy one.
Scientists suggested that Apophis would provide the best opportunity to explore this approach. Astronomers may point their telescopes toward the asteroid the next time it passes by Earth to evaluate its size, shape, and spin rate, the scientists suggested. Then, if they use AIME to find an asteroid with similar features, they might be able to better target it to keep it from coming into Earth’s path.
According to de Wit, “Knowing the interior” helps us grasp the extent to which near-interactions could be of concern and how to deal with them.