Dimorphos Orbit Determination from Mutual Events Photometry

Peter Scheirich, Petr Pravec, Alex J. Meyer, Harrison F. Agrusa, Derek C. Richardson, Steven R. Chesley, Shantanu P. Naidu, Cristina Thomas, Nicholas A. Moskovitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The NASA Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft successfully impacted the Didymos-Dimorphos binary asteroid system on 2022 September 26 UTC. We provide an update to its preimpact mutual orbit and estimate the postimpact physical and orbital parameters, derived using ground-based photometric observations taken from 2022 July to 2023 February. We found that the total change of the orbital period was −33.240 ± 0.072 minutes (all uncertainties are 3σ). We obtained the eccentricity of the postimpact orbit to be 0.028 ± 0.016 and the apsidal precession rate was 7.3 ± 2.0 degrees day−1 from the impact to 2022 December 2. The data taken later in 2022 December to 2023 February suggest that the eccentricity dropped close to zero or the orbit became chaotic approximately 70 days after the impact. Most of the period change took place immediately after the impact, but in the few weeks following the impact it was followed by an additional change of − 27 − 58 + 19 s or −19 ± 18 s (the two values depend on the approach we used to describe the evolution of the orbital period after the impact—an exponentially decreasing angular acceleration or the assumption of a constant orbital period, which changed abruptly some time after the impact, respectively). We estimate the preimpact Dimorphos-Didymos size ratio was 0.223 ± 0.012 and the postimpact is 0.202 ± 0.018, which indicate a marginally significant reduction of Dimorphos’ volume by (9 ± 9)% as the result of the impact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number17
JournalPlanetary Science Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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