NASA was not going to miss the opportunity toof an asteroid through the eyes of its most powerful space observatories. On Thursday, NASA and the European Space Agency released new images taken by the Hubble and James Webb telescopes showing the moment the .
DART was designed as humanity’s first experiment in kinetic impact mitigation, which is a lot of syllables to say that the goal was to crash a spacecraft into an asteroid to see if the collision could alter space rock orbit. The technique could one day be used to protect Earth from an asteroid or comet that threatens to impact our planet.
Neither Dimorphos nor the largest asteroid around which the moon revolves, Didymos, pose a threat to us. In reality,at present.
The effort to capture the moment of impact, along with earlier and follow-up images of the crash site, marks the first time Webb and Hubble have made observations of the same target at the same time.
“This is an unprecedented vision of an unprecedented event,” Andy Rivkin, DART survey team leader, said in a statement.
The images are captured in different wavelengths of light, with Hubble showing the impact in visible light and Webb using an infrared instrument. The bright center of the images shows the point of impact, which maintained a high level of light for several hours. Plumes of material ejected from the asteroid’s surface by the collision are also visible.
“When I saw the data, I was literally speechless, stunned by the stunning detail of the ejecta captured by Hubble,” said Jian-Yang Li of the Planetary Science Institute who led the Hubble observations.
Astronomers will continue to examine observations and data from the event with telescopes both in space and on the ground to get a better idea of how the impact changed Dimorphos, both in its structure and in terms of trajectory through the cosmos.