NASA releases first images of collision between Dart spacecraft and asteroid

posted on 09/28/2022 19:26


In the image, it is possible to see the larger asteroid, Didymus, and, Dimorphos, the smaller object on the right and target of the mission. It is possible to see light trails around the rock, caused by the impact with the Dart spacecraft – (credit: ASI/NASA)

NASA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) released, this Wednesday (28/9), the first images of the intentional collision of the spacecraft Dart with the asteroid Dimorphos, which occurred last Monday (26/9). The captures were taken by LiciaCube, a small satellite equipped with cameras sent into space to capture impact data.

LiciaCube tracked the collision operation and captured the target, Dimorphos, before and after impact. The asteroid, just 160 meters in diameter, orbits another, larger asteroid called Didymus. See a gif made by the Italian Space Agency that brings together the two images:

To reach the target, Dart navigated focusing on Didymos and, minutes before impact, switched to focusing on Dimorphos. At 8:14 pm on Monday, the spacecraft collided with the rock at 15,000 miles per hour — about 24,100 kilometers per hour — which caused the ship’s expected destruction.

In the LiciaCube log, you can see that after Dart’s signal is lost, a bright flash of light around the asteroid is seen, triggered by a cloud of debris caused by the impact.

“Dimorphos is completely covered by this emission of dust and debris produced by the impact,” explained Elizabeth Dotto, team leader at the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics, which accompanied the mission.

  • Image captured by the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube a few minutes after Dart’s intentional collision with its target asteroid, Dimorphos, captured on September 26, 2022.
    ASI/NASA

  • Image captured by the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube a few minutes after Dart’s intentional collision with its target asteroid, Dimorphos, captured on September 26, 2022.
    ASI/NASA

Dubbed the Double Asteroid Redirection (Dart) Test, the mission was NASA’s first to test a “planetary defense system,” in which a spacecraft is built and launched against asteroids to alter the object’s path, should it occur. threatens Earth.

Goal achieved? NASA still doesn’t have the answer

LiciaCube will continue in space and follow Dimorphus to verify that the collision objective has been achieved: slowing the asteroid to “shorten the orbit by about 1%, or, about 10 minutes”.

Ground-based telescopes also monitor the asteroid for data. Scientists say it is not yet possible to determine whether the operation has achieved its goal, but they are optimistic.

“Now the science can begin. From this impact event, we can learn more about the mechanics of small-body impacts, momentum transfer, and the ability to use artificial impactors to push asteroids out of their orbits.” Curtin University Space Technology.

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