As we know a few days ago there NASA DART space probe (acronym for Double Asteroid Redirection Test) has deliberately impacted against theasteroid Dimorphos to change its orbital period. This will allow over the weeks or months to collect new data for future projects planetary defense that aim to understand how to avoid the impact on Earth of dangerous celestial objects.
This was “alone” a test test and therefore a double system was chosen that was not actually dangerous (and it did not become so even after the impact, the orbital period is estimated to change by 1% or 10 minutes). The Italian satellite LICIACube built by Argotec on behalf of ASI with the first images that have been released in the past few days and many will arrive in the coming weeks. However, the event was so important and so expected that even the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb space telescope (in addition to the Lucy probe and other ground-based telescopes) observed what was happening. To have even more solid data, however, it will be necessary to wait a few weeks so as to know more in detail what happened.
NASA DART and images from Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope
A preview of what was observed had already been the subject of our news but now also there NASA published an article in which he told how much the two space telescopes could see of the impact between the space probe And the asteroid Dimorphos (smaller than Comrade Didymos). We remember that HST it is located in low earth orbit at about 550 km of altitude while JWST it is in orbit around the second Lagrange point at 1.5 million km.
As mentioned by Bill Nelson (NASA administrator) “For the first time, Webb and Hubble simultaneously captured images of the same target in the cosmos: an asteroid that was hit by a space probe after a journey of 11 million kilometers. All of humanity eagerly awaits the discoveries that will come from Webb, Hubble and our ground-based telescopes, regarding the DART mission “.
The images captured by JWST
The data of all the telescopes involved, obviously including the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb space telescopeas well as satellites LICIACube and Lucy will allow to collect information on the structure of Dimorphoson his behavior after impact with NASA DART, on the quantity of material ejected into space and on its speed. Then observing it with different wavelengths it will be possible to know if the separated fragments were small or large. Interestingly, the asteroid system increased its brightness three times after impact and then remained constant for the next 8 hours.
The JWST observed both before the impact between the probe and the asteroid and after in the infrared wavelength with the NIRCam instrument (0.7 µm filter F070W) for a total of five hours and capturing 10 images of NASA DART And Dimorphos. It must be considered that the telescope is not designed to follow such fast objects and therefore a great effort by scientists was required to succeed in the enterprise.
The images captured by HST
For what concern Hubble Space Telescope, the observations started before the impact and continued for the next 15 minutes for a total of 45 images. The camera used was the Wide Field Camera 3 in the visible wavelength. HST will monitor the two asteroids 10 more times over the next three weeks to check both the orbital period but also how the debris cloud will be dispersed. Now all that remains is to wait for all the data, the new images from the various telescopes and probes and finally the scientific studies that will be published to know if the idea of the orbit deviation with kinetic impact will have a future.
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