Captured the 'tail' of debris, similar to that of a comet, which now extends from the asteroid Dimorphos for at least 10 thousand kilometers: it was produced following the impact with NASA's Dart probe, which occurred successfully on 27 September , as part of the first mission aimed at verifying this planetary defense strategy in case the Earth is threatened by a similar object.
The photo was taken two days after the crash by researchers at NoirLab, a research center of the US National Science Foundation (Nsf), using the SOAR (Southern Astrophysical Research) telescope located on Cerro Pachón, Chile.
The image captures the vast plume of dust and debris released from the asteroid's surface pushed away by the pressure exerted by solar radiation, just like real comets.
“It's amazing how we were able to clearly capture the structure and extent of the 'tail',” comments Teddy Kareta of the US Lowell Observatory, author of the photo with Matthew Knight, of the US Naval Academy.
Observations of this type will allow researchers to acquire data on the surface of Dimorphos, on the amount of material ejected after the collision and also on the type and size of the debris, which can be formed by fine dust or by larger pieces.
This information is important to understand how to best protect the Earth, since even the debris formed by a possible impact of an asteroid with a probe to divert its trajectory could pose a danger to the planet.