Almost a month ago, on September 26, NASA had successfully carried out the first-of-its-kind Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, a planetary defense test to change the orbit of asteroid Dimorphos while crashing a spacecraft into it. NASA has confirmed that the mission was successful in altering Dimorphos’ orbit. Latest data shows that the DART mission shortened the 11 hour and 55 minute orbit of the asteroid by about 32 minutes, much more than expected. However, the result of the DART mission is even more stunning! This has been captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in the form of astonishing twin tails of dust ejected from asteroid.
This is the result of the repeated observations via the Hubble Telescope over the last couple of weeks, allowing scientists to observe and understand the debris cloud of the asteroid after the spacecraft hit. The image shows that the ejected material from the asteroid has expanded and slowly faded over a period of time after impact. However, this twin tail ejection was an unexpected surprise to be captured by the Hubble Telescope, though such a similar trajectory is commonly observed in comets and active asteroids.
After the spacecraft hit the asteroid, the Hubble Telescope made 18 observations of the system so far. The Phy.org report says that the second tail was observed between October 2 and October 8. However, the relation between comet-like tail and other ejecta features is still unclear, which will be examined by the team. It further says that in the coming months, NASA scientists will look closely at the data observed by the Hubble Telescope to understand how the second tail developed.
NASA's DART is the first-ever space mission to demonstrate asteroid deflection by kinetic impactor. The spacecraft launched on billionaire Elon Musk led SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket out of Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
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