Science

Asteroid Didymos: NASA’s galactic target practice for DART

Asteroid Didymos: NASA's galactic target practice for DART

Didymos is a binary asteroid system: a pair of harmless, lumpy rocks minding their own business as they spin through space. NASA’s DART mission crashed a spaceship into them on Sept. 26, 2022. The smaller asteroid in the system, known as Dimorphos, was the target of a NASA mission to demonstrate its developing planetary defense techniques. While Didymos is not threat to Earth, this technology could protect Earth from other space rocks that may be more dangerous.

What is Didymos?

These 14 radar images show the near-Earth asteroid Didymos (65803) and its moonlet as seen by the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope in Puerto Rico in November 2003.  (Image credit: NASA)

The pair of asteroids together are known as Didymos, but individually the two rocks are Didymos and Dimorphos. Didymos is a large asteroid around half a mile (2,560 feet or 780 meters) in length, while Dimorphos measures a mere 525 feet (160 m), according to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL), where the DART mission is based. In some previous coverage from Space.com, Dimorphos has been referred to as Didymos’ moonlet or as “Didymoon.”

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