Success! DART Impact Shortened Asteroid’s Orbit Time by 32 Minutes

Debris from asteroid targeted by DART
A Hubble Space Telescope image from Oct. 8 shows the debris blasted from the surface of an asteroid called Dimorphos 12 days after it was struck by NASA's DART spacecraft. (Credit: NASA / ESA / STScI / Hubble)

NASA says its DART spacecraft caused a larger-than-expected change in the path of its target asteroid when they collided two weeks ago — marking a significant milestone in the effort to protect our planet from killer space rocks.

Ten months after it was launched, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test’s refrigerator-sized robotic probe crashed into a 560-foot-wide asteroid called Dimorphos on Sept. 26, as it circled a bigger asteroid known as Didymos. The paired asteroids were 7 million miles from Earth at the time, and posed no threat to Earth before or after the smashup.

Before the crash, DART’s science team said they expected the collision to reduce the time it took for Dimorphos to go around Didymos by about 10 minutes. NASA would have regarded any change in excess of 73 seconds as a success.

After the crash, detailed observations from ground-based observatories showed that the orbit was actually 32 minutes shorter — going from 11 hours and 55 minutes to 11 hours and 23 minutes. That’s three times as much of a change as scientists were expecting. Scientists also said Dimorphos appears to be slightly closer to Didymos.

“This is a watershed moment for planetary defense, and a watershed moment for humanity,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said today. “All of us have a responsibility to protect our home planet. After all, it’s the only one we have.”

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LICIACube Sends Home Images of the DART Impact and the Damage to Dimorphos

Image captured by the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube a few minutes after the intentional collision of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission with its target asteroid, Dimorphos, captured on Sept. 26, 2022. Credits: ASI/NASA
Image captured by the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube a few minutes after the intentional collision of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission with its target asteroid, Dimorphos, captured on Sept. 26, 2022. Credits: ASI/NASA

The Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIACube) has returned a series of close-up images of the asteroid Dimorphos, after last week’s successful impact of the Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) probe. LICIACube was built and operated by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and was designed to capture post-impact imagery for the DART team, to help assess the effects of the impact.

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After Getting Slammed by DART, Asteroid Dimorphos has Grown a Tail

Astronomers using the NSF’s NOIRLab’s SOAR telescope in Chile captured the vast plume of dust and debris blasted from the surface of the asteroid Dimorphos by NASA’s DART spacecraft when it impacted on 26 September 2022. In this image, the more than 10,000 kilometer long dust trail — the ejecta that has been pushed away by the Sun’s radiation pressure, not unlike the tail of a comet — can be seen stretching from the center to the right-hand edge of the field of view.

More images and details keep coming in about the asteroid intentionally smashed by NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft last week, and this latest image is stunning.

A telescope in Chile called SOAR took an image of the asteroid Dimorphos two days after the impact by DART and found the asteroid is trailing a stream of debris more than 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) long. However, other reports indicate that the debris trail could now be as long as 50,000 km (31,000 miles), and could still be growing.

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A Single High-Resolution Image of Dimorphos Stacked From DART’s Final Images

A high resolution image of Dimorphos made by stacking the last images received from DART. Credit: Eydeet on Imgur.

Here’s a sharper view of Dimorphos, the small asteroid moonlet that the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft intentionally crashed into. Eydeet on Imgur created a higher resolution image of Dimorphos by stacking the last few images received from the spacecraft before impact.

First impressions? It’s an egg-shaped rubble pile.

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DART Impact Seen by Hubble and Webb

DART hits an asteroid.
For the first time, the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope took simultaneous observations of the same target. These images, Hubble on left and Webb on the right, show observations of Dimorphos several hours after NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) intentionally impacted the moonlet asteroid. Courtesy NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

What happens when you whack a little asteroid with an even littler spacecraft? People around the world watched on the 26th of September when the DART mission smashed into the side of Dimorphos. This tiny worldlet is a companion asteroid to Didymos. It was the world’s first test of the kinetic impact technique, using a spacecraft to deflect an asteroid by modifying its orbit. Amateur observer networks and professional observatories tracked the meetup from the ground. In a first, both Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) took simultaneous images and data.

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Watch a Nicely Stabilized Video of DART Flying Past Didymos and Slamming Into Dimorphos

The last complete image of asteroid moonlet Dimorphos, taken by the DRACO imager on NASA’s DART mission from ~7 miles (12 kilometers) from the asteroid and 2 seconds before impact. The image shows a patch of the asteroid that is 100 feet (31 meters) across. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

Here’s one of the best videos we’ve seen of the last minutes of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission as it headed towards and slammed into the asteroid Dimorphos. This stabilized version of the last five-and-a-half minutes of images leading up to DART’s intentional collision with the asteroid was produced from NASA’s DART images. It was produced by the YouTube channel Spei’s Space News from Germany.

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This is the Last Thing DART saw as it Smashed Into its Asteroid Target

The last complete image of asteroid moonlet Dimorphos, taken by the DRACO imager on NASA’s DART mission from ~7 miles (12 kilometers) from the asteroid and 2 seconds before impact. The image shows a patch of the asteroid that is 100 feet (31 meters) across. Dimorphos’ north is toward the top of the image. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

The first-ever planetary defense technology demonstration mission successfully conducted its mission, slamming into the surface of a distant asteroid and going out in a blaze of glory. NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft acted as a kinetic impactor, colliding with the small and harmless asteroid Dimorphos on September 26 at 7:14PM ET, with the hope of deflecting it.

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China is Building an Asteroid Deflection Mission of its own, due for Launch in 2025

Illustration of the DART spacecraft with the Roll Out Solar Arrays (ROSA) extended. Credit: NASA

There’s an old joke that the dinosaurs are only extinct because they didn’t develop a space agency. The implication, of course, is that unlike our reptilian ancestors, we humans might be able to save ourselves from an impending asteroid strike on Earth, given our six-and-a-half decades of spaceflight experience. But the fact is that while we have achieved amazing things since Sputnik kicked off the space age in 1957, very little effort thus far has gone into developing asteroid deflection technologies. We are woefully inexperienced in this arena, and aside from our Hollywood dramatizations of it, we’ve never yet put our capabilities to the test. But that’s about to change.

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Here’s DART’s First Picture From Space. We Are Already Looking Forward to its Last Image

On Dec. 7, after opening the circular door to its telescopic imager, NASA’s DART captured this image of about a dozen stars near where the constellations Perseus, Aries and Taurus intersect. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

It might not look like much, but here is the first monumental image from the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). Earlier this month, a circular door covering the aperture of its DRACO telescopic camera was opened, allowing the camera to take its first image.  

Now, imagine what the camera’s last image will be like: a REALLY closeup view of a binary asteroid system, Didymos and especially, its moonlet Dimorphos. The goal of DART is to intentionally collide with Dimorphos. If everything goes according to plan, this will alter the asteroid’s motion so that ground-based telescopes can accurately measure any changes.

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OSIRIS-REx Did One Last Close Flyby of Asteroid Bennu. It’s Almost Time to Come Home

After more than two years in orbit around asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is ready to come home. It’s bringing with it a pristine sample of space rocks that geologists here on Earth are eager to study up close. The sample will arrive in September 2023, but we won’t have to wait nearly that long for new data from OSIRIS-REx. Last week, the probe carried out one final flyby of Bennu, in an effort to photograph the sample collection site. The photographs are being downlinked now, and should be here by midweek.

If you’ve been following the OSIRIS-REx mission, you probably already know why scientists are keen to see these photographs, but if you haven’t, hold on to your hats – it’s a wild story.

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