NASA Probe Successfully Launches Boulders Into Space, Smashing Asteroids

A recent study using images from the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed that when NASA’s DART probe successfully knocked an asteroid off course last year, it also sent 37 boulders into space. The DART probe collided with the pyramid-sized asteroid Dimorphos, located approximately 11 million kilometers from Earth. This collision marked the first-ever test of Earth’s planetary defenses.

© Nasa

The images taken by the Hubble telescope show that the boulders range in size from one to seven meters across and represent about two percent of the boulders that were already scattered across the surface of Dimorphos. This finding suggests that future missions aimed at diverting life-threatening asteroids could potentially result in the release of boulders towards Earth.

However, there is no need for concern as these particular rocks pose no threat to our planet. In fact, they are drifting away from Dimorphos at a speed of about one kilometer per hour, which is comparable to the walking speed of a giant tortoise. The European Space Agency’s Hera mission, set to arrive at the asteroid in 2026, will have the opportunity to observe these boulders as they continue to disperse.

According to David Jewitt, a planetary scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles and lead author of the study, the dispersal of the boulders indicates that DART created a crater approximately 50 meters wide on Dimorphos. The entire asteroid has a diameter of 170 meters. The scientists involved in the study plan to track the trajectory of the boulders to further understand how they were launched off the surface.