It was an asteroid deflection test, a historic first. NASA sent the DART spacecraft to crash into Dimorphos. What does such a collision look like? New images show us the scene.
The DART spacecraft traveled 11 million kilometers over 10 months to finally crash, on September 27, 2022, in the binary asteroid Didymos – and more precisely its “moon” Dimorphos. But all this was planned and even desired: it was a deviation test. The objective is that humanity does not relive the impact which decimated the dinosaurs several million years ago: in other words, it is a question of learning to deflect any potentially dangerous asteroid, just in case.
This test is a historic first. The collision – which took place at 20,000 km/h – will now be studied by scientists in order, in particular, to conclude whether or not the deviation was successful. The task looks delicate. Until the conclusions are obtained and disseminated, we can in any case enjoy impressive images.
Since the first video released by NASA just after the crash, showing the last moments of DART, other recordings have been published. We owe them to a tiny satellite and terrestrial telescopes.
LICIACube: dizzying images of the first asteroid deviation
A tiny 30-pound satellite — dubbed LICIACube — closely followed the DART spacecraft to observe its effects. On the evening of September 27, the first images taken by LICIACube have been broadcast. They are raw, so obviously much blurrier than a Hollywood film. But they still make you dizzy.
The DART crash into Dimorphos from Earth
These are not the only images published. Because many telescopes established on Earth have turned their lens towards this historic space event. Starting with the Virtual Telescope. ” We saw in real time, with our own eyes, the effects of the DART impact on the asteroid Didymos, its target, making it much brighter, with a huge cloud of debris write the astronomers, revealing the photo they captured.
The Virtual Telescope also produced an animation of it:
The South African Astronomical Observatory was also able to record the collision, thanks to the two astronomers Nicolas Erasmus and Amanda Sickafoose. The video has been published on the observatory’s Twitter account :
A very similar capture also took place on the side of the ATLAS observatory, which also broadcast the video on Twitter :
In addition to the remote study, a European mission called Hera will be mobilized on site by 2024-2026 to analyze the effects of the collision on the asteroid. The machine will have analysis tools and cameras on it.