'Incredible': Astronomers hail first images of asteroid impact

    • The asteroid is flying through space when suddenly a massive cloud of debris sprays, meaning only one thing: impact.
    By: AFP
    | Updated on: Sep 28 2022, 22:09 IST
    NASA DART Mission in pics: Amazing Attack on Asteroid!
    asteroid
    1/6 NASA with its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission spacecraft is all set to collide with a non-hazardous asteroid called Dimorphos in order to test planetary defence on Monday, September 26. The learnings from this asteroid attack will be used to protect Earth from asteroids that are heading for a collision with our planet. According to NASA, this will be the world's first mission to deflect an asteroid in space. NASA’s DART, built and managed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, will demonstrate and test asteroid deflection by kinetic impactor. (Bloomberg)
    NASA DART Mission
    2/6 Dimorphos, the asteroid moonlet of Didymos poses no threat to Earth. The DART spacecraft had recently got its first look at Didymos, the double-asteroid system that includes its target, Dimorphos. It is being said that in 2024, the European Space Agency (ESA) will send a space probe to Dimorphos as part of the space mission HERA. The aim of the mission is to visually investigate the aftermath of the DART probe impact. (NASA )
    Asteroid
    3/6 When to watch: The live broadcast of the event will start on September 26 at 6 p.m., EDT. The spacecraft will impact its target asteroid at 7:14 p.m. EDT, while at 8:00 p.m. ET, the research organisation will host a post-impact press briefing. (AFP)
    NASA
    4/6 Where to watch: The historic collision can be watched live online as NASA will be broadcasting the same. NASA will broadcast the live coverage of DART’s impact with the asteroid Dimorphos on NASA TV and its several social media handles like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. (AFP)
    DART spacecraft
    5/6 About asteroids: According to NASA, More than 100 tons of dust and sand sized particles are bombarded towards Earth everyday. While, about once a year, an automobile-sized asteroid hits Earth's atmosphere, creates an impressive fireball, and burns up before reaching the surface. Every 2,000 years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage to the area. Only once every few million years, an object large enough to threaten Earth's civilization comes along. Impact craters on Earth, the moon and other planetary bodies are evidence of these occurrences. (AP)
    Atseorid
    6/6 Space rocks smaller than about 25 meters (about 82 feet) will most likely burn up as they enter the Earth's atmosphere and cause little or no damage. By comparison, asteroids that populate the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and pose no threat to Earth, can be as big as 940 kilometers (about 583 miles) across. (MINT_PRINT)
    NASA DART mission
    View all Images
    Astronomers have hailed this early footage of the DART smashing a spacecraft into an asteroid.  (AP)

    The asteroid is flying through space in the grainy black and white video, when suddenly a massive cloud of debris sprays out in front of it, meaning only one thing: impact.

    Astronomers have hailed this early footage of the first time humanity deliberately smashed a spacecraft into an asteroid, saying it looks like it did a "lot of damage".

    That would be good news, because NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) impactor struck the asteroid Dimorphos at 23,500 kilometres (14,500 miles) per hour on Monday night with the goal of deflecting its trajectory.

    While Dimorphos is 11 million kilometres (6.8 million miles) away and poses no threat to Earth, it is being used as a historic test run so the world can be ready to defend itself if a future astroid heads Earth's way.

    After the impact, ground-based telescopes and the toaster-sized satellite LICIACube, which separated from DART a few weeks ago, revealed the first images of the collision.

    "On the LICIACube images, the plume of what came off the surface was quite impressive," Antonella Barucci of the Paris Observatory's LESIA laboratory told AFP.

    By examining the plume, "we can begin to estimate the density of the material on the surface," she said.

    - 'Very, very big' plume -

    The Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) project on Tuesday tweeted a nine-second video of the impact taken by its telescope in South Africa.

    Larry Denneau, the ATLAS co-principal investigator, said the telescope took one image every 40 seconds.

    "So the whole sequence that you've seen on Twitter lasts about two hours in real time," he told AFP.

    He said the "very, very big" plume was made by dust shooting off the asteroid.

    "A lot of the dust is released at a speed that's greater than the gravity of the asteroid, and so it escapes," Denneau said.

    The plume expanded to around "several thousand miles in diameter," he added.

    In the coming days and weeks astronomers around the world will work to confirm whether the asteroid's trajectory was definitively altered by the impact.

    Then the European Space Agency's Hera mission will arrive at Dimorphos in 2026 to survey the surface and discover the extent of DART's impact.

    Hera mission principal investigator Patrick Michel said "we are all impressed by the magnitude of the event".

    "We have done a lot of damage to Dimorphos," Michel said.

    "We have a quantity of ejected matter that is quite incredible."

    The amount of matter ripped from the asteroid will help scientists work out exactly how much its trajectory has been affected -- if at all.

    "The more material is ejected, the more it deviates," said Eric Lagadec, president of the French Astronomical Society.

    "So it's a pretty good sign," he added.

     

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    First Published Date: 28 Sep, 21:32 IST
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