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NASA’s DART Impact Lit Asteroid Up Like a Christmas Tree, Kept It So for Hours

On September 27, humanity proved to itself it can successfully target and impact asteroids in space. We’re still waiting for confirmation that in doing so, we’re also capable of changing the trajectory of space rocks, but the achievement is without a doubt impressive.
Dimorphos after DART impact as seen by Hubble 11 photos
Dimorphos after DART impact as seen by WebbDimorphos after DART impact as seen by HubbleDimorphos after DART impact as seen by Hubble and WebbLast images DART sent back before impactLast images DART sent back before impactLast images DART sent back before impactLast images DART sent back before impactLast images DART sent back before impactLast images DART sent back before impactLast images DART sent back before impact
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft hit a small asteroid called Dimorphos (which orbits a larger one called Didymos) at speeds of 14,000 miles (22,530 km) with the goal of altering its orbit. The spacecraft captured its final moments on camera (check video below), but now we’re getting a first glimpse at how the whole thing unfolded through the eyes of the world’s most powerful telescopes, the James Webb Space Telescope and veteran Hubble.

The images captured by the two observatories were shared this week by the European Space Agency, and they show, from very, very far away how the impact unfolded and what resulted from it.

Webb looked at the Dimorphos target from before the impact and long after (for a total of about five hours), and the images it captured (the ones in red in the gallery) show a compact core of light from which plumes of material emerge. Surveillance of the asteroid using Webb will continue over the coming months.

Hubble, on the other side, looked at the moonlet before the impact and 15 minutes after and snapped images that show the impact in visible light. The ejecta from the hit show this time as “rays stretching out from the body of the asteroid.”

After analyzing the images, scientists believe the brightness of the target asteroid increased by three times following the impact, and kept high for eight hours after it.

Hubble, too, will continue to look at the Didymos pair, so who knows what other interesting things we’ll learn from our planet’s first ever planetary defense test in the coming months.



 
 
 
 
 

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