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Debris From NASA Smashing Asteroid Could Strike Mars, Scientists Find

DIY Meteor Shower

In 2022, NASA intentionally smashed its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft into a tiny asteroid called Dimorphos, a landmark test to see whether we could divert potentially dangerous space rocks in the future.

The literally groundbreaking collision indeed proved powerful enough to knock Dimorphos off its trajectory — leaving a massive trail of boulders, loose rock and dust in its wake, as seen in spectacular images taken by NASA's Hubble and James Webb space telescopes.

The distance these boulders will be covering is considerable. While scientists have concluded that none of them will hit Earth, they will "cross the orbit of Mars," European Space Agency's Near-Earth Objects Coordination Center researcher Marco Fenucci, coauthor of a recent paper published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, told National Geographic.

And if they were to pierce the Red Planet's thin atmosphere some 6,000 years from now, "they will arrive to the ground and make a crater," he added.

Space Billiards Break

In other words, NASA's DART mission wasn't just a resounding success in humanity's first attempt to divert an asteroid, but as NatGeo points out, it also marks the first time we've created a meteor storm, .

Coincidentally, while the space agency artificially induced the storm with a human-made object, these kinds of processes are already happening across the solar system and other star systems like it.

NASA's DART spacecraft absolutely eviscerated Dimorphos, surprising scientists with just how much material was sent flying. Observations found the space rock had even changed shape as a result.

"We did not expect that many boulders that were that big to be blown off," DART investigation team lead Andy Rivkin told NatGeo. "We think that those have to be pre-existing boulders that the shockwave threw off. They were not created during the impact."

Ironically, the loosened boulders could eventually pose a threat to the ESA's Hera spacecraft, which is scheduled to rendezvous with Dimorphos as soon as 2026.

Fortunately, scientists have deemed the chances of such a collision to be extremely low.

More on DART: The Asteroid NASA Smashed Is Now Healing, Scientists Suggest