After NASA’s DART mission slammed into the asteroid Dimorphos, the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope took simultaneous pictures of what was left behind
29 September 2022
The two most powerful telescopes in service have both taken images of the same small asteroid. The Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) simultaneously snapped the asteroid Dimorphos in the aftermath of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART).
The DART spacecraft slammed into Dimorphos on 26 September in an attempt to change its orbit around the larger asteroid Didymos. The collision created huge plumes of dust and debris, and both Hubble and JWST observed Dimorphos before and after the crash.
The aim of the DART mission is to test whether we would be able to use a similar spacecraft to deflect an asteroid were it headed towards Earth – Dimorphos is completely harmless, making it a good test subject. To figure out how the test went, researchers will analyse how much Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos changed, as well as the material properties of the asteroid.
These images from Hubble and JWST will help scientists determine what Dimorphos is made of, how much of it was destroyed in the collision and blasted off into space, and how fast that material hurtled away. This will help us understand the best way to push a dangerous asteroid off course.
This is the first time the two enormous orbiting telescopes have looked at the same object simultaneously. Both will continue to monitor Dimorphos over the coming weeks and months to track the expanding cloud of debris and examine the fresh surface of the asteroid beneath now that all that dust has been blasted away.
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