NASA was not going to miss this chance capture his historic ambush through the eyes of the most powerful space observatories of the asteroid. On Thursday, NASA and the European Space Agency released new images taken by the Hubble and James Webb telescopes. The DART spacecraft crashed into the asteroid Dimorphos.
DART was designed as humanity’s first experiment in kinetic deceleration, which is too many syllables to say that the goal was to ram a spacecraft into an asteroid to see if the collision could change the orbit of the space rock. This technique could one day be used to protect Earth from an asteroid or comet that threatens to impact our planet.
Neither Dimorphos nor the larger asteroid Didymos, which orbits the moon, poses any threat to us. In fact, actually, no known asteroid poses a significant threat right now.
The effort to capture the moment of impact, as well as before and after images of the crash site, marks the first time Webb and Hubble have observed the same target at the same time.
“This is an unprecedented view of an unprecedented event” Andy Rivkin, head of the DART research team, said in the statement.
The images are taken at different wavelengths of light, with Hubble showing the effect in visible light and Webb using an infrared instrument. The bright center of the images shows the point of impact, which maintains a high level of brightness for several hours. Plumes of material ejected from the asteroid’s surface by the collision are also visible.
“I was literally speechless when I saw the data, amazed at the amazing detail of the ejecta captured by Hubble,” said Jian-Yang Li of the Planetary Science Institute, who led the Hubble observations.
Astronomers will continue to review observations and data from both space and ground-based telescopes of the event to get a better idea of how the impact changed Dimorphos in terms of both its structure and its path through space.
Leave a Comment