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Pictures from the »DART« mission: »Within an hour the cloud was as big as the earth«


NASA intentionally crashed a probe into an asteroid. "Dart" sent pictures up until the impact, after which it remained black. Telescope images now show the crash – and a huge cloud.

Enlarge image

"Liciacube" recorded the dust cloud: A spacecraft following "Dart".


On Tuesday night, the "Dart" space probe collided with an asteroid.

"After the impact, the transmission goes black due to a loss of signal," Nasa wrote in a note about the live transmission of the event.

Telescopes on Earth can fill in this blackout of images: their images show a spectacular shower of debris falling out of the asteroid after the collision.

The New York Times reports. 

According to NASA calculations, the hit asteroid Dimorphos, a kind of moon of the asteroid Didymos with a diameter of around 160 meters, currently poses no danger to Earth potentially dangerous railway device.

From the approximately 330 million dollar mission, Nasa hopes to find out how the earth could be protected from approaching asteroids.

It was the first maneuver ever in space to test the defense against an asteroid threatening Earth.

The aim was to slightly change Dimorphos' orbit around the asteroid Didymos and to shorten its orbital period by up to ten minutes from the previous twelve hours.

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According to the first video, the maneuver had a great effect.

The grainy black-and-white images first show the asteroid moon Dimorphos, and then a huge cloud of debris and dust ahead of Dimorphos.

This indicates that the NASA probe Dart severely affected the celestial body as desired.

"We have done damage to Dimorphos," said Patrick Michel of the European Space Agency (ESA), which is involved in evaluating the experiment.

The volume of "ejected material" is "rather unbelievable".

The dust cloud can now be used to estimate the density of Dimorphos' surface.

The Atlas asteroid warning system released video of the maneuver composed of images from its telescope in South Africa.

According to Atlas scientist Larry Denneau, the telescope took a picture every 40 seconds.

Denneau pointed out that the "Dart" probe created a "very, very large" cloud of dust upon impact.

It had a diameter of several thousand kilometers.

A bright spot can be seen in the video sequence, which moves – and suddenly gets even brighter and spreads out.

According to the New York Times, this brightness comes from the fact that the debris reflected the sunlight after the impact.

The brightness has dropped since the collision, but the point is still significantly brighter than before.

A plume of slower-moving debris that remains near Didymos and Dimorphos is likely to fall back onto the surfaces of the two asteroids in the coming weeks.

"We simply pointed our telescope in South Africa in the direction of the asteroid," says John Tony, a professor of astronomy at the University of Hawaii.

"And we started taking pictures every 40 seconds." They didn't expect that such a large cloud of dust would form, Tony told the New York Times.

He is one of the main people responsible for the Atlas telescope.

According to the report, the debris surprised Tony: "Within an hour the cloud was as big as the earth."

Enlarge image

The last full image of the asteroid moon Dimorphos sent by the Nasa probe


Most of the debris was ejected from the impact site and moved away from the side where "Dart" struck, it said.

"That's exactly what you would expect from a cloud bouncing off the surface," Tony told the New York Times.

The Italian space agency released images captured by Liciacube - a spacecraft that followed Dart to capture before-and-after images of Dimorphos.

"Here are the first #LICIACube images from the #DARTmission impact on #Dimorphos," the Italian Space Agency tweeted.

"Weeks and months of hard work now begin for the scientists and engineers involved in this first planetary defense mission."

For planetary researcher Angela Stickle at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the probe's impact is also the long-awaited confirmation of a theory.

Scientists had long puzzled over the nature of the asteroid.

"Dimorphos can be anything from a monolithic object to a flying pile of rubble," planetary researcher Martin Jutzi from the University of Bern told SPIEGEL.

According to Stickle, the large cloud of dust and debris-strewn surface seen in the Dart images indicate a pile of debris that was only loosely held together.

Analysis of the experiment will continue in the coming weeks.

For an even more detailed investigation, Esa wants to send out its Hera probe in 2024, which should reach the asteroid two years later.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is significantly involved in the mission.


Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-09-28

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