After being struck by NASA’s DART satellite, the Didymos-Dimorphos system is strutting its stuff.
Around the world, people hailed the space impact. During NASA’s massive planetary defence test mission last month, the DART spacecraft fired itself into an asteroid. Even though it was a huge success, recent follow-up photos of the Didymos-Dimorphos asteroid system reveal some unexpected behaviour.
As visible in two streaks extending backward from a bright ball of light with a blue tint, the double asteroid system has evolved a twin tail, which NASA and the European Space Agency revealed in a new photograph from the Hubble Space Telescope on Thursday.
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On September 26, DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) created history when the spacecraft collided with Dimorphos, a tiny moon in orbit around Didymos, a larger asteroid. It was a test to see if a collision like that could alter a space object’s orbit. It was successful, and it offers a model for how people could respond to a dangerous asteroid that is headed toward Earth.
Early observations of the material ejected from the collision by Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope were very positive. Later, using ground-based telescopes to study the asteroid’s extended tail, astronomers estimated its length to be about 10,000 kilometres (6,000 miles). What has since occurred is visible in the new Hubble appearance. The emergence of a second tail of ejecta was described by NASA as “a surprising surprise.”
Hubble has made several trips back to the asteroid system since the collision. The data indicates that between October 2 and October 8, the second tail formed. Even while similar behaviour is frequently observed in comets and active asteroids, NASA noted that the twin tail was an unexpected development.
Scientists are currently investigating the enigma of the twin tail and how it evolved in an effort to comprehend the effects of DART’s work.
We have many examples of the harm that space rocks can cause, despite the fact that there are no known threats from asteroids to Earth in the near future. Being prepared is what led to DART’s sacrifice, but the trip didn’t end with the impact. Researchers must now interpret the asteroid’s behaviour and consider how to safeguard Earth using what they learn.