2 NASA space telescopes together take this rare photo: Unprecedented!

NASA made history this week (September 26, 2022) after its attempt to crash the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft into the asteroid Dimorphos nearly 11 million kilometers away – an attempt world’s first space force capable of protecting the Earth from future asteroid/meteorite devastation.

The event of September 26, 2022 marks a new milestone in the history of human space exploration as humans change the dynamics of a celestial body in a measurable way.

The success of the DART mission is very carefully measured:

– Its initial success is the event of the DART spacecraft after a journey of nearly 1 year in space to the target (the asteroid Dimorphos) since the launch date of November 23, 2021 on the top of the Falcon rocket. 9 by SpaceX. Then, DART made a “suicide” crash into Dimorphos at a speed of more than 22,000 km / h.

– Subsequent success will be measured (later) in looking at whether and how the DART spacecraft will affect the orbit of the asteroid Dimorphos around Didymos.

“We hope this historic nudge will slightly alter Dimorphos’ orbit and bring it into a more gravitational orbit with Didymos. Dimorphos takes 11 hours and 55 minutes to complete one orbit around Didymos. If DART works successfully, that time could be reduced by 73 seconds, or 10 minutes less than we expected” – Edward Reynolds, DART Project Manager at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory said.

To closely observe the DART collision and assess the impact, NASA and other space agencies have deployed a range of technologies to track the event. In addition to the camera systems mounted on the satellites accompanying the DART, NASA arranged two systems of James Webb and Hubble telescopes, and a series of underground observatories to monitor this event. And yet, NASA’s Lucy mission and the European Space Agency’s Hera mission (expected to launch in 2024) will also assess the impact of this 1-0-2 collision.


September 28, 2022, NASA released the first close-up images of the DART spacecraft’s collision with the asteroid Dimorphos, taken by the two optical cameras LUKE and LEIA of the LICIACube satellite (DART’s companion) taken about 55 km from the collision. .

Images from the DRACO camera (of the DART ship) and two optical cameras of the LICIACube satellite. Source: ASI / NASA

Then, on September 29, 2022, NASA continues to publish images obtained from the James Webb space telescope (worth $ 10 billion) and the Hubble telescope of the September 26 collision – From there, providing scientists with a lot of valuable information. value.

According to NASA, this is the first time that the James Webb and Hubble telescopes have synchronously captured images from the same object in space. The collaboration of these two major NASA astronomical observatories will reveal new information about the impacting asteroid.

The James Webb Space Telescope observes the universe in infrared (heat-emitting wavelengths), while the Hubble Space Telescope is an expert at detecting optical light – the kind visible to the human eye ( visible light).

By combining observations from the two telescopes, astronomers can learn a lot about objects in the universe. NASA says the observations from James Webb and Hubble together will allow scientists to gain knowledge of the nature of Dimorphos’s surface, the amount of matter ejected by the collision, and the rate at which it was ejected. .

2 NASA space telescopes together take this rare photo: Unprecedented!  - Photo 1.

Image of the collision. The left image was taken by the Hubble telescope in visible light. Photo must be taken by James Webb glasses in infrared light. Source: NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI)

Both James Webb and Hubble observed the Didymos-Dimorphos binary asteroid system before the collision of the 560 kg DART spacecraft with the 140 meter wide asteroid Dimorphos. Dimorphos orbits a 780 meter wide asteroid called Didymos. And it was the orbit of Dimorphos around Didymos that the DART experiment was designed to change.

The asteroid pair, which at the time of impact was about 11 million kilometers from Earth, appeared in the ‘magic eye’ of James Webb and Hubble like a bright dot that suddenly flared up when the DART spacecraft hit. In the hours following the impact, the cloud of material stirred up from the surface of asteroid Dimorphos spread out from the bright dot, gradually changing its shape.

1. Hubble observations

According to Hubble measurements, the luminosity of the Didymos binary system tripled after the impact of the DART spacecraft, and this luminosity persisted for more than 8 hours afterwards.

2 NASA space telescopes together take this rare photo: Unprecedented!  - Photo 2.

These images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, taken (left to right) 22 minutes, 5 hours, and 8.2 hours after the impact NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) had intentionally to the asteroid Dimorphos, showing beams of light emitted from the impacted asteroid. Source: Science: NASA, ESA, Jian-Yang Li (PSI); Image Processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

The Hubble – which is 32 years old – used Wide Field Camera 3 equipment. The image from Wide Field Camera 3 shows the impact of the collision in light visible to the human eye. The light emitted from the impact appeared as rays extending from the asteroid’s body.

Some of the rays appear to be slightly curved, but astronomers need to take a closer look to determine what this means. In the Hubble images, astronomers estimated that the luminosity of the binary asteroid system increased threefold after the collision and showed that the luminosity remained stable, even eight hours after the collision.

This animation is a combination of three images taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope after NASA’s Dual Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) intentionally impacted Dimorphos. The animation lasts from 22 minutes after impact to 8.2 hours after impact occurs. As a result of the collision, the brightness of the Didymos-Dimorphos system increased by 3 times. Brightness is also maintained quite stable, even eight hours after impact. Source: Science: NASA, ESA, Jian-Yang Li (PSI); Image Processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

Hubble plans to track the Didymos-Dimorphos 10 system again over the next three weeks.

These frequent, relatively long-term observations will help scientists capture more images as the ejection cloud expands and fades over time, painting a more complete picture of the cloud’s expansion. clouds from erupting to disappearing.

Jian-Yang Li of the Institute of Planetary Science in Tucson, Arizona, USA – who led the Hubble observations, said: “When I saw the data, I was literally speechless, stunned by the details. amazing view of the ejected matter that Hubble captured. I feel lucky to witness this moment and be part of the team that made this happen.”

The Hubble Space Telescope captured 45 images in the time immediately before and after the impact of DART with Dimorphos. The Hubble data were collected as part of the Joint Observer Program of Cycle 29 16674.

“This is an unprecedented look at an unprecedented event,” said Andy Rivkin, DART investigation lead at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

2. Observation of James Webb . Glasses

The James Webb Space Telescope observed the impact site before the collision occurred, then made several observations over the next several hours. Using the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), James Webb gives scientists an image of a tight, compact core, with plumes of matter appearing as tiny filaments emanating from the center of where they occur. collide.

This animation, created from a time series of images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, covers the time span just before impact to 5 hours after impact. Beams of material from a compact core appear as blasts of waves away from where the impact occurs. Source: Science: NASA, ESA, CSA, Cristina Thomas (Northern Arizona University), Ian Wong (NASA-GSFC); Image Processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

Observing the impact of the impact with the James Webb telescope has given scientists unique challenges to how fast an asteroid will move after being impacted by a man-made object.

Expert Cristina Thomas of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona (USA) said: “I have nothing but great admiration for the scientists behind Mission Operation James Webb who made this possible. We have been planning these observations for years, after It’s been a detail for weeks, and I’m so happy it’s come to fruition.”

Scientists also plan to observe the Didymos-Dimorphos asteroid system in the coming months using James Webb’s Mid-Range Infrared Instrument (MIRI) and Near Infrared Spectrometer (NIRSpec). The spectral data will provide researchers with insight into the chemical composition of the asteroid Dimorphos.

The James Webb Glasses observed the impact of the impact for a total of 5 hours and captured 10 images. The data were collected as part of the James Webb 1245 Cycle Guaranteed Periodic Observation Program led by Heidi Hammel of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA).

The DART mission was the first test in history designed to change the orbit of a celestial body. The “dynamic impact” strategy could one day save the Earth from a collision with a stray meteorite/asteroid. (Dimorphos and Didymos pose no threat to our planet.)

2 NASA space telescopes together take this rare photo: Unprecedented!  - Photo 5.
2 NASA space telescopes together take this rare photo: Unprecedented!  - Photo 6.

The James Webb telescope (top) and the Hubble telescope. Source: NASA

James Webb . Space Telescope is the world’s leading space science observatory. James Webb will solve the mysteries of our Solar System, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars; while exploring the mysterious structures and origins of the universe and our place in it. James Webb is an international program led by NASA with partners ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

Hubble Space Telescope is an international collaborative project between NASA and ESA. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland (USA) conducts the science activities of Hubble and James Webb. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, in Washington, DC (USA).

Source: NASA, Space.com, Engadget

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