The ‘sighting’ was made by astronomers Matthew Knight, from the US Naval Research Laboratory; Y teddy karetafrom the Lowell Observatory, who verified the trail using the Southern Astrophysics Research Telescope (SOAR), located in Chile.
In the image shared by the team, the ejecta can be seen after being pushed by the pressure of solar radiation. The trail extends from the center to the right edge of the field of view, which in SOAR is about 3.1 arcminutes using the Goodman high-performance spectrograph. Translated into distance, this would be equivalent to a minimum of 10,000 kilometers from the point of impact.
“It is amazing how clearly we were able to capture the structure and scope of the aftermath in the days after the impact,” Kareta said in a statement. “Now begins the next phase of work for the DART team as they analyze their data and the observations of our team and other observers around the world who shared the study of this exciting event,” said Knight. “We plan to use SOAR to monitor the ejection in the coming weeks and months. The combination of SOAR and AEON (the Astronomical Event Observatory Network) is just what we need for a efficient tracking of evolving events like this».
These observations will allow scientists to gain insights into the nature of Dimorphos’s surface, how much material was ejected by the collision, how fast it was ejected, and the particle size distribution in the expanding dust cloud; for example, if the impact caused the small moon to shed large chunks of material or mostly fine dust.
Taken together, this information will help scientists protect Earth and its inhabitants by better understanding the amount and nature of the ejection resulting from an impact, and how that might change an asteroid’s orbit.
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