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Hubble and JWST saw fallout from NASA’s DART asteroid mission

After NASA’s DART mission slammed into the asteroid Dimorphos, the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope took simultaneous pictures of what was left behind.

Space


September 29, 2022

The Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope captured the aftermath of the DART mission

Joseph DePasquale, Alyssa Pagan/Space Telescope Science Institute

The two most powerful telescopes in service have taken images of the same small asteroid. The Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) simultaneously imaged asteroid Dimorphos after NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART).

The DART spacecraft crashed into Dimorphos on September 26 in an attempt to change its orbit around the larger asteroid Didymos. The collision created huge plumes of dust and debris, and both Hubble and JWST observed Dimorphos before and after the crash.

The goal of the DART mission is to test whether we could use a similar spacecraft to deflect an asteroid if it were headed toward Earth: Dimorphos is completely harmless, which makes it a good test subject. To find out how the test went, the researchers will look at how much Dimorphos’s orbit changed around Didymos, as well as the material properties of the asteroid.

These images from Hubble and JWST will help scientists determine what Dimorphos is made of, how much was destroyed in the collision and shot out into space, and how quickly that material was precipitated. This will help us understand the best way to deflect a dangerous asteroid.

This is the first time that the two huge orbiting telescopes have observed the same object simultaneously. Both will continue to monitor Dimorphos over the coming weeks and months to track the expanding debris cloud and examine the fresh surface of the asteroid below now that all that dust has been removed.

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