NASA’s 2022 Asteroid Test Proved Successful But Caused Deadly Boulder Storm

David Jewitt, a professor at UCLA, says the boulder storm is “like a cloud of shrapnel expanding from a hand grenade.”

by Mary Manley
via sputniknews

Experts have suggested that a newly-discovered pack of space boulders could carry an impact as strong and deadly as the force of the atomic bomb used on Hiroshima during the Second World War.

The US space agency NASA accidentally forced the emergence of a swarm of boulders around the asteroid Dimorphos after testing the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft, it was recently revealed.

In fact, the boulders were shaken loose by NASA last September when the organization carried out tests for its DART mission, which is focused on establishing a concrete planetary defense method.

However, astronomers believe the boulders may have already existed on Dimorphos’ surface and that the DART spacecraft simply knocked them free once the test saw the vessel crash into the asteroid and redirect its trajectory.

In total, the group of scientists from at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) pinpointed 37 boulders that range in various sizes from 3 feet to 22 feet in width, and are traveling at a speed of 13,000 miles per hour through space. Researchers noted the total weight of the debris is estimated to be at around 1,000 tons.

David Jewitt, a professor at UCLA, says the boulder storm is “like a cloud of shrapnel expanding from a hand grenade.”

“Because those big boulders basically share the speed of the targeted asteroid, they’re capable of doing their own damage,” added Jewitt, who went on to explain that a 15-foot boulder hitting Earth, at a typical impact rate, could deliver as much energy as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.

While the DART mission proved a success, the asteroid chosen for the test is six million miles from Earth and is unlikely to ever pose a threat to Earth in the near future.

Looking to future experiments, experts hope to use the Hubble Space Telescope to track down the trajectories of any future boulders.

“If we follow the boulders in future Hubble observations, we may have enough data to pin down the boulders’ precise trajectories,” added Jewitt. “And then we’ll see in which directions they were launched from the surface and figure out exactly how they were ejected.”

Mary Manley

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