Space mission seems to have changed asteroid’s orbit.

BBC is reporting on the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission, which touched down on the asteroid Dimorphos (which orbits larger asteroid Didymos) earlier this year. The test was whether a similar ship could deflect a dangerous asteroid safely. The asteroid moved, but observations now show that the smaller asteroid is moving in a totally unexpected way:

However, using their school telescope, a team of children and their teacher Jonathan Swift at Thacher School in California have found that more than a month after the collision, Dimorphos’ orbit continuously slowed after impact… which is unusual and unexpected.

As reported in the New Scientist, the team presented their findings at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

After discovering the unusual behaviour of Dimorphos, it’s likely that Nasa will have to factor in the high school’s findings, if they ever launch another asteroid redirection mission in the future.

One explanation for the asteroid’s orbit continuing to change so long after the Dart collision is that material thrown up by the impact, including rocks several metres across, eventually fell back onto the surface of the asteroid, changing its orbit even more.

The European Space Agency is launching a mission called Hera, which will arrive at Dimorphos in 2026 and could reveal more details as to what happened to the asteroid following the impact.