NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope acquired some images of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft colliding with Dimorphos on Monday earlier this week.
In fact, James Webb and Hubble were able to observe the same astronomical object at the same time for the first time.
The asteroid moonlet in Didymos’ double-asteroid system, Dimorphos, and DART purposely collided on September 26. It was the first time the kinetic impact mitigation method, which entails sending a spacecraft to divert an asteroid that doesn’t threaten Earth and alter its orbit, has ever been tested.
The Hubble and Webb observatories can provide vital scientific insights into the composition and evolution of our solar system. According to NASA, the coordinated observations of the telescopes represent more than just a technological triumph for each telescope.
By integrating views from Webb and Hubble, scientists can learn more about the properties of Dimorphos’ surface, the quantity of material expelled by the impact, and the speed at which it was ejected.
Additionally, utilizing different wavelengths of light, Webb captured the collision in infrared while Hubble captured it in visible light.
Hubble Witnesses Ejecta’s Movement
TechExplorist said Hubble took pictures of a binary system 15 minutes before the impact and 15 minutes after DART hit Dimorphos’ surface. Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 shows the collision in daylight.
Beams extending from the asteroid’s body indicate the impact’s ejecta. According to NASA, DART originated from the more noticeable, widely dispersed spike of ejecta to the left of the asteroid.
To explain some of the apparent slight bends in the beams, astronomers need to examine more closely. The system’s brightness grew three times after impact and stayed consistent for eight hours, according to astronomers’ analysis of Hubble images.
During the next three weeks, Hubble will make 10 further observations of the Didymos-Dimorphos system. According to NASA, these reliable, long-term data will enable a more accurate representation of the ejecta cloud’s growth from the ejection through its disappearance as it evolves over time.
As part of Cycle 29’s General Observers Program 16674, Hubble took 45 images before and after DART and Dimorphos collided.
(Photo : NASA, ESA, Jian-Yang Li (PSI); image processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI))
These images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, taken (left to right) 22 minutes, 5 hours, and 8.2 hours after NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) intentionally impacted Dimorphos, show expanding plumes of ejecta from the asteroid’s body. The Hubble images show ejecta from the impact that appear as rays stretching out from the body of the asteroid. The bolder, fanned-out spike of ejecta to the left of the asteroid is in the general direction from which DART approached. These observations, when combined with data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, will allow scientists to gain knowledge about the nature of the surface of Dimorphos, how much material was ejected by the collision, how fast it was ejected, and the distribution of particle sizes in the expanding dust cloud.
James Webb Space Telescope Snaps the Impact Site
Before the collision, Webb made one observation of the impact location and made more over the following few hours. The tight, compact core of the object is visible in photos taken by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), as are material plumes that emanate from the object’s center.
Speed, I am speed.
Observing the #DARTMission impact with Webb was a unique challenge. The target moved over at a speed over 3 times faster than the original speed limit Webb was designed to track! In the weeks leading up to the impact, teams carefully tested for success. pic.twitter.com/XGpTsMg0Ab
— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) September 29, 2022
According to NASA, watching the collision with Webb presented unique challenges for the mission operations, planning, and scientific teams due to the asteroid’s quick rise across the sky.
Webb analyzed the effect and shot ten images over the course of five hours. SciTechDaily said the data were obtained as part of Heidi Hammel’s Webb Cycle 1 Guaranteed Time Observation Program 1245 for the Association for Universities for Research in Astronomy.