In photos: NASA unveils images of satellite crash with asteroid
Why it matters: NASA's undertaking — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) — marked the first time humans have changed the course of a celestial body and was a major milestone in the space agency's planetary defense mission.
- The technology tested in the DART mission could one day be used to redirect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.
- Asteroid strikes are rare, but an impact from a large space rock could cause significant citywide or regional damage.
How it works: The goal of the crash was to change the orbit of a moonlet asteroid, called Dimorphos, around a larger space rock called Didymos. Neither poses an immediate threat to Earth.
- The asteroid duo are roughly 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers) away from Earth.
The big picture: Many of the photos were captured by the miniature satellite, LICIACube, which was equipped with two cameras and was deployed by DART several days before impact.
- The small satellite, which was produced by the Italian Space Agency, flew past Dimorphos just minutes after the crash to collect the images. The Italian space agency released the first images from LICIACube on Tuesday.
- Large streaks of Dimorphos' surface material, also called ejecta, can be seen in the images, as well as what appears to be a crater.
- Before the collision, scientists estimated that DART's crash would excavate a crater on the asteroid and blast between 22,000 and 220,000 pounds (between 9,979 and 99,790 kilograms) of ejecta, into space.
What's next: It will take weeks of observing the asteroid duo to precisely determine how much the impact altered Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos.
- The Hubble Space Telescope plans to monitor the Didymos-Dimorphos system 10 more times over the next three weeks to understand how the ejecta cloud behaves over time, so more images of the aftermath may be released.