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‘After’ photos of DART’s collision with an asteroid

'After' photos of DART's collision: Gray background with dots for stars and circle in middle with streamers coming off it.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Filipp Romanov used the Siding Spring Observatory’s remote iTelescope to capture this “after” image of the DART spacecraft’s impact with Didymos B – aka Dimorphos – a tiny moon of asteroid Didymos. DART struck the little asteroid on September 26, 2022, in the 1st-ever test of humanity’s ability to defend itself from a future asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Filipp wrote that 3 days after the collision the stony asteroid looked: “… like an artificial comet. I see 3 tails in the image.” Those “tails” were debris kicked up by the DART impact. Thank you, Filipp! See more ‘after’ photos of DART’s collision below.

‘After’ photos of DART’s collision

DART – the Double Asteroid Redirect Test – was a huge hit, quite literally. The spacecraft smashed into an asteroid moon – called Didymos B, or Dimorphos – on September 26, 2022. The goal was to prove that we can send a spacecraft to push an asteroid slightly in its orbit. It was practice for a possible future scenario, in which we find a hazardous asteroid barreling toward Earth. Did it work? We don’t know yet. It’s going to take a while longer for scientists’ calculations to show on whether Dimorphos was, in fact, moved off its path. But, while we wait, we’re seeing many interesting images of the collision itself, which we want to share with you here.

The collision created tails of debris

We had no idea (and the scientists didn’t know either) that the DART asteroid collision would be so visible from Earth.

But the fact is that debris trail from the collision with Dimorphos stretched for some 6,200 miles (10,000 km) into space. By contrast, Earth’s diameter is just a bit larger, at about 8,000 miles (13,000 km). And keep in mind that little Dimorphos itself is – or at least was – just 560 feet (170 meters) in diameter prior to the impact. How big is it now? We don’t know. Many amateur astronomers – including EarthSky friends Filipp Romanov of Russia and Eliot Herman of the U.S. state of Arizona – captured the impact site in the days after the collision. And, of course, both the Webb and Hubble space telescopes viewed it, along with NOIRLab’s SOAR Telescope in Chile. The images were all amazing!

NOIRLab said in a press release on October 3, 2022:

These observations will allow scientists to gain knowledge about the nature of the surface of Dimorphos, how much material was ejected by the collision, how fast it was ejected, and the distribution of particle sizes in the expanding dust cloud — for example, whether the impact caused the moonlet to throw off big chunks of material or mostly fine dust.

So, stay tuned! There will likely be more exciting DART science and images to come!

After photos of Dimorphos

Two images, one a negative image, showing one dot near center with 3 taillike appendages.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Eliot Herman of Arizona used a remote telescope – the Siding Spring Observatory iTelescope in Australia – to capture this image of Dimorphos on October 3, 2022. Eliot wrote: “DART impact effect on Dimorphos a week later. A dust tail is still visible as the result of the probe’s impact. It looks like a small comet with its dust trail as the result of the impact ejecta. It appears that material continues to be ejected from the impact site, making the tail continuous to the asteroid.” Thank you, Eliot!

Bottom line: See amazing ‘after’ photos of DART’s collision with a tiny stony asteroid on September 26, 2022. Images show comet-like debris tails almost as long as Earth!

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