Aftermath of NASA’s first planetary defense test REVEALED: Amazing photo shows 6,200-mile tail of debris from asteroid Dimorphos in wake of DART spacecraft collision
- DART spacecraft deliberately slammed into asteroid Dimorphos last month
- NASA said the experiment was the world’s first such planetary defense test
- Now a new image shows a 6,200-mile tail of debris created by the collision
- The photo was taken by astronomers using the SOAR telescope in Chile
It gripped the world when NASA deliberately slammed a spacecraft into an asteroid as part of humanity’s first-ever planetary defense test.
Now, just over a week later, astronomers have unveiled a new image of the aftermath that shows a 6,200-mile (10,000 km) tail of dust and debris created by the collision.
It was captured using the Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope in Chile – just one of many observatories on Earth watching for the impact.
The spectacular image shows the ejecta pushed away by the solar wind, creating a tail similar to the tail commonly associated with trailing comets.
It can be seen extending from the center to the right edge of the field of view.
It gripped the world when NASA deliberately slammed a spacecraft into an asteroid as part of the first-ever planetary defense test. Now, just over a week later, astronomers have unveiled a new image of the aftermath that shows a tail of dust and debris created by the impact (pictured)
The last full image of asteroid moon Dimorphos taken by the DRACO imager on NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission from 7 miles (12 kilometers) from the asteroid and 2 seconds before impact
WHAT IS THE NASA DART MISSION?
DART is the world’s first planetary defense test mission.
It was a spacecraft that was deliberately crashed into the small moon-shaped asteroid Dimorphos, which orbits a larger companion asteroid called Didymos.
This was done to slightly alter Dimorphos’ orbit.
The moon is about 525 feet in diameter, and while it poses no threat to Earth, NASA wanted to measure the asteroid’s altered orbit as a result of the collision.
Post-impact observations from Earth-based optical telescopes and planetary radars will measure the change in Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos, according to NASA.
This demonstration of planetary defense will inform future missions that may one day save Earth from a deadly asteroid impact.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) was launched last November with the aim of knocking a space rock off course as part of an experiment in planetary protection.
It was the world’s first test of a kinetic impact mitigation technique, which used a spacecraft to deflect an asteroid that poses no threat to Earth, and alter the object’s orbit.
On September 26, at 7:14 PM ET (00:14 BST September 27), DART intentionally crashed into Dimorphos, the asteroid moon in the double asteroid system of Didymos.
While this asteroid posed no threat to Earth, the hope is that if the mission is a success — as thought — it could work as a strategy to defend our planet against future threats from space.
Two days after the DART collision, astronomers Teddy Kareta and Matthew Knight captured the huge plume of dust and debris blasted from the asteroid’s surface with the SOAR telescope at NSF’s NOIRLab’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory.
“It’s amazing how clearly we were able to capture the structure and extent of the aftermath in the days following the impact,” Kareta said.
Knight added: “Now begins the next phase of work for the DART team as they analyze their data and observations by our team and other observers around the world who have contributed to the study of this exciting event.
“We plan to use SOAR to monitor the ejecta in the coming weeks and months. The combination of SOAR and AEON is exactly what we need for an efficient follow-up of evolving events like this one.’
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), a box-shaped space probe, crashed into its target at 7:14 p.m. ET on Sept. 26. It was humanity’s first ever planetary defense test
Influence! NASA’s first-ever “planetary defense” spacecraft — sent to deflect an asteroid 6.8 million miles from Earth — hit Monday, Sept. 26. The image above shows how the mission worked
Before the collision, it took Dimorphos about 11 hours and 55 minutes to circle around his larger partner Didymos.
However, this should now decrease a few minutes after the crash.
Earth-bound telescopes are currently analyzing the data on Dimorphos to assess whether the mission has succeeded in changing its orbit around its “twin” asteroid Didymos.
However, scientists said the mission delivered an “ideal outcome.”
They believe the impact carved out a crater, sent streams of rocks and debris into space and, most importantly, altered the asteroid’s orbit.