Hubble captures a time-lapse movie of DART collision: NASA
The Hubble movie offers invaluable new clues into how the debris was dispersed into a complex pattern in the days following the impact
National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA's) Hubble Space Telescope captured a series of photos of asteroid Dimorphos when it was deliberately hit by a 1,200-pound NASA spacecraft called DART on September 26, 2022, according to their statement.
The statement described that the Hubble movie starts at 1.3 hours before impact. In this view both Didymos and Dimorphos are within the central bright spot; even Hubble can't resolve the two asteroids separately.
The thin, straight spikes projecting away from the center (and seen in later images) are artifacts of Hubble's optics.
The first post-impact snapshot is 2 hours after the event.
Debris flies away from the asteroid, moving with a range of speeds faster than four miles per hour, fast enough to escape the asteroid's gravitational pull, so it does not fall back onto the asteroid, the statement said.
The ejecta forms a largely hollow cone with long, stringy filaments.
At about 17 hours after the impact the debris pattern entered a second stage.
The dynamic interaction within the binary system starts to distort the cone shape of the ejecta pattern, the statement described.
The most prominent structures are rotating, pinwheel-shaped features. The pinwheel is tied to the gravitational pull of the companion asteroid, Didymos.
"This is really unique for this particular incident," said Li. "When I first saw these images, I couldn't believe these features. I thought maybe the image was smeared or something."
Hubble next captures the debris being swept back into a comet-like tail by the pressure of sunlight on the tiny dust particles, the statement said.
This stretches out into a debris train where the lightest particles travel the fastest and farthest from the asteroid. The mystery is compounded later when Hubble records the tail splitting in two for a few days, the statement said.
A multitude of other telescopes on Earth and in space, including NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and Lucy spacecraft, also observed the DART impact and its outcomes.
This Hubble movie is part of a suite of new studies published in the journal Nature about the DART mission.
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This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.