The asteroid Didymos sends rocks flying into outer space

Didymos has been studied for some time now in preparation for NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) and the European Space Agency’s Hera mission. DART has now had first-hand experience of the asteroid up close (before it crashed into its moon Dimorphos), giving scientists plenty of data about its shape, mass and rotation.

Spins fast

The experts have discovered that the asteroid spins very fast, completing a full rotation every 2 hours and 16 minutes. It’s super fast.

The researchers described Didymos in their work as an asteroid “on the edge of stability” due to its impressive rotation rates. The effects of the spin are felt most strongly at the celestial object’s equator.

In this region, rocks and dust are able to lift from the surface and even move in orbit. This makes Didymos a spinning asteroid that constantly spews materials into its vicinity and beyond.

“Massive particles potentially float for some time, land on the surface and lift off again, repeating such cycles over and over, or just land at latitudes from which further lift is not possible,” the authors wrote in their study.

The elements ejected by Didymos either reach orbit or are deposited on the moon Dimorphos. Some may even escape the system, driven by the force of the solar wind.

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