This animation shows the evolution of the cloud of debris that was ejected the asteroid Dimorphos after it was hit by the DART spacecraft. It was created using images taken with the MUSE instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope during the one month after the impact.
In this first image, the footprint of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft and its two long solar panels has been overlaid with where it hit asteroid Dimorphos. The largest boulder near the impact site is about 6.5 meters across. DART took the image three seconds before impact.
When DART struck Dimorphos, the spacecraft body hit between two large boulders, and its two solar panels hit the boulders. The yellow surface in the sconce image is a digital terrain model of the impact site made from DART images, and the model of the spacecraft shows its orientation a few tens of microseconds before impact. The white line extending from the back of the spacecraft is its trajectory. The spacecraft’s body was about 1.3 m from front to back.
This image from JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) shows Dimorphos, the asteroid moonlet in the double-asteroid system of Didymos, about 4 hours after DART hit it. A tight, compact core and wispy plumes of material streaming away are visible. The eight sharp points are Webb’s distinctive diffraction spikes, an artifact of the telescope’s structure.
Image Credits: NASA / ESA / CSA / Cristina Thomas (Northern Arizona University) / Ian Wong (NASA-GSFC) / Joseph DePasquale (STScI)
The DART spacecraft carried a small cubesat built by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) which was separated from DART a few days before it smacked into Dimorphos. The cubesat LICIACube trailed DART, and is now sending back pictures of the impact. Here’s one—ASI has a gallery of pictures from LICIACube here.
These are the final images of the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos taken by the DRACO camera about the DART spacecraft as it crashed into Dimorphos. The moonlet is only about 170 m (560 ft) in diameter, making it one of the smallest astronomical objects that has been given a permanent name. Early telemetry suggests that DART hit within 17 m of dead center.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is a NASA mission aimed at testing a method of planetary defense against near-Earth objects (NEOs). It’s the first attempt to change the speed and path of an asteroid. Using some of the world’s most powerful telescopes, the DART mission conducted observations to confirm earlier calculations of the orbit of Dimorphos—DART’s asteroid target—around its larger parent asteroid, Didymos, confirming where the asteroid is expected to be located at the time of impact.
The Lowell Discovery Telescope near Flagstaff, Arizona, captured this time lapse sequence (sped up 500 X) in which the asteroid Didymos moves across the night sky.