Publication of the first images of Dart impact taken by another spacecraft


NASA’s Dart (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft made history when it slammed into asteroid Dimorphos on Monday night, but the spacecraft didn’t die alone: ​​Just behind Dart, at a safe distance, was a tiny, microwave-sized spacecraft from the Italian space agency, the Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids, or LiciaCube.

NASA’s Dart (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft made history when it slammed into asteroid Dimorphos on Monday night, but the spacecraft didn’t die alone: ​​Just behind Dart, at a safe distance, was a tiny, microwave-sized spacecraft from the Italian space agency, the Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids, or LiciaCube.

Today, not even 24 hours after Dart’s historic impact, the Italian Space Agency began sharing some of the images of Dart’s impact on the asteroid, first during a press conference, then on social media.

In a Tuesday morning Tweet, the Italian space agency first shared a brief animation showing the before and after images of the impact of Dimophos, which is the smaller and fainter of the two gray objects. It’s Dimorphos who suddenly gets brighter when Dart hits him at 14,400 miles per hour; the largest object is Didymos, Dimorphos’ largest companion asteroid.

The Italian text of the Tweet quotes Elisabetta Dotto, science team leader at the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics, saying, “‘A before and after impact image. You can see the flash produced by the Dart impact. “

In a second Tweet shared by the Italian space agency, the orientation of the image is changed, with Dimorphos seen in the upper left of the image, obscured in a bright flash, with Didymos illuminated by impact in the middle to right of the frame.

“In the foreground we see the central body Didymos, and above Dimorphos completely covered by the debris produced by the impact,” Dr. Dotto said in the Tweet.

Liciacube took the footage the moment Dart hit Dimorphos, but had to wait until the Deep Space Network, the global network of radio antennae used to communicate with spacecraft beyond Earth’s orbit, could start downloading images. There might be more images to come from Liciacube.

There will also be more images to come from other telescopes.

A myriad of ground-based telescopes were trained on Dimorphos at 7:14 p.m. EDT Monday as Dart made its impact on the space rock, and some of them, such as Earth’s Last Warning Earth Impact System. asteroids, or the Atlas project, have already posted their pictures of the Dart impact.

Other space observations, including Nasa’s Lucy mission to the Jovian asteroids, and the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, will also provide images, once they can be downloaded via the Deep Space Network.

However, none of these images are likely to have the same resolution and level of detail as those broadcast by Dart itself as it closed in on its target, revealing Dimorphos to be a large, giant asteroid egg, strewn of rocks.

(NASA/AFP via Getty Images)

The next up-close and personal look at Dimorphos will come in 2026, when the European Space Agency’s Hera mission visits the asteroid to study the impact crater left behind by Dart and take final measurements to assess how far the impact changed the asteroid’s orbit around it. great companion Didymos.

NASA successfully crashes spacecraft into asteroid in ‘planetary protection test’

Dart was a test to see if slamming a spacecraft into an asteroid would be an effective way to alter its orbit over time, providing Earth with tools to deflect dangerous asteroids on a collision course with our planet, and scientists believe that Dart could ultimately alter Dimorphos’ orbit by up to 10 minutes.

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