The DART probe collided with the Dimorphos asteroid as planned. Almost to the last second, it transmitted its images from the main camera. Now scientists will be watching its target to understand how its movement has changed.
DART’s collision with an asteroid went as planned
NASA has successfully collided the DART spacecraft with the Dimorphos asteroid. It happened on September 27 at 2:14 a.m. GMT+3. An hour before that, the agency began broadcasting the incident, which was conducted from the mission control center and from the camera on board the probe.
The camera transmitted images every few seconds, so that everyone could see how the Dimorphos gradually grows from a small point to a plain covered with rocks, and then the signal from the DART disappeared, indicating that it crashed into the surface of its target.
The event was observed by several spacecraft. The LICIACube cubesat observed the collision up close, but it has only a very small antenna, so it will transmit images for several more weeks. Hubble and James Webb space telescopes looked at it from a distance, and what they could see is unknown.
In addition, about 30 observatories around the globe tried to observe the collisions. But it was useless to just look with the naked eye, and not at all because of the cloudy sky. The target was hit 11 million km from Earth, and it is too small to be seen even with a small telescope.
What are the results of the mission
At the same time, it is too early to say that the mission was completely successful. Although it is often served as an anti-satellite weapon test, such a DART is not. Its impact could not blow the Dimorphos to pieces, even theoretically.
The maximum damage that an object the size of a car could cause to an asteroid with a diameter of 160 m could be only a small funnel on its surface. NASA hopes that they have managed to change the rotation speed of the Dimorphos around Didymos by 1 percent.
But this prediction strongly depends on what the Dimorphos actually consists of. Depending on the composition, different models give some different forecasts. Observation of asteroids in the coming weeks will allow us to determine which of them is correct.
The research of the Didymos-Dimorphos pair will continue for another 6 months, until it disappears behind the Sun due to orbital motion. And in a few years, the Hera mission will fly up to it, which will be able not only to assess the consequences of the incident, but also to find the wreckage of DART.
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