Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Each week, we take a closer look at an interesting science or science-related term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s term is:
Let it not be said that scientists don’t have a sense of humor. When they discovered that the asteroid 65803 Didymos has its own moon, they named that moon Didymoon.
Yes, asteroids can have their own moons, but we knew that for many years before the discovery of Didymoon. The important thing you need to know is that we humans are planning to use Didymoon for target practice.
Multiple space agencies around the world, including NASA, are collaborating on a mission called the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission (AIDA). Didymos and Didymoon will pass near Earth in October of 2022. As they approach, AIDA will launch, and it will try to hit Didymoon really, really hard to see how much we can shift its orbit.
AIDA is a crucial test. Are we capable of changing the orbits of objects in space? Can we protect our planet from incoming asteroids and comets?
Didymos and Didymoon are correct. They’re not like the asteroid from the K-T Event, which wiped out the dinosaurs, or the object from the Tunguska Event, which leveled an astonishing number of trees.
But if we can adjust Didymoon’s orbit around Didymos, we’ll be better prepared to adjust the trajectories of other asteroids that might be heading our way.