Image of the DART impact will be useful to discover more of the asteroids

Image of the DART impact will be useful to discover more of the asteroids
Photo: Image of the DART impact will be useful to discover more of the asteroids / Courtesy

While we await the results of its impact, the DART mission left us with a surprising image. It has been captured from Earth, from a Chilean telescope. The image shows the Didymos asteroid system with a mile-long dust tail that makes it look like a comet.

A pen of 10 thousand kilometers. The image was recently released by the National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab); shows the effects of the impact of the DART probe on the asteroid Dimorphos, part of the binary system Didymos. The Didymos is formed by an asteroid of the same name, about 800 meters in diameter, orbited by an asteroid-satellite, Dimorphos, barely 160 meters long.

Although the orbit of Dimorphos is slightly more than a kilometer away from Didymos (that is, the entire system occupies no more than a space of one and a half kilometers in radius) the “plume” of dust and rock that kicked up the blow extends for more than 10 thousand kilometers.

like the tail of a comet

The image was captured two days after the impact. The cloud of dust and rocks expelled by the impact was shaped not only by the force of the impact itself but also by the pressure exerted by solar radiation, in a similar way to what happens with the tail of comets, clouds of matter that they always “point” away from our star.

“It is fascinating how clearly we are able to capture the structure and extent of the consequences [del impacto] in the following days” explained in a press release Teddy Kareta, one of those in charge of taking the image.

the kamikaze probe

The DART probe (acronym for Double Asteroid Redirection Test) crashed in the early hours of September 27, against the smallest of the Didymos system asteroids, Dimorphos. The purpose was to provide it with enough kinetic energy to deflect it slightly in order to test our ability to avoid the impact of a rock with similar characteristics if it were headed for Earth.

The first part of the mission, crashing the probe into the asteroidwas a success, but the effect of the blow on the trajectory that Dimorphos draws around Didymos remains to be measured.

Experts believe that, by analyzing the effect of the shock, it is possible to generate accurate models that allow us to calculate how we should hit hypothetical asteroids headed for Earth, based on their previous trajectory, speed, and composition.

Analysis from various angles

It is observations like these that should allow astronomers to calculate the effect of the DART mission about the orbit of the asteroid; To what extent was it altered and how can we extrapolate this data when we are going to divert the one that could be heading towards us.

Image of the DART impact will be useful to discover more of the asteroids
Photo: Image of the DART impact will be useful to discover more of the asteroids / Courtesy

The data that the experts on the DART team will work with not only includes information about the new speed and trajectory of Dimorphos; but also on this cloud of dust and rocks that is no longer part of the asteroid. This will make it easier to understand, for example, to what extent the rock that makes up the object was in a compact state.


The image was captured by the SOAR (Southern Astrophysical Research) telescope, a 4.1-meter telescope located on Cerro Pachón, in the Chilean Andes. It is located at 2,713 meters above sea level and was inaugurated in 2006.

In its surroundings you can find various astronomical observatories such as CTIO (Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory) and the Gemini South telescope. This concentration of telescopes in the Andean mountains is not accidental; it is due to the combination of several factors, such as its relative isolation and its altitude.

Telescopes in the area such as the Vera C. Rubin will also be some of those in charge of searching our environment those asteroids and objects that may pose a threat to our existence on this planet.


#Image #DART #impact #discover #asteroids

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