James Webb and Hubble telescope images capture DART asteroid collision

made history this week after attempting to ram his DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft into an asteroid nearly 11 million kilometers away. While NASA shared some close-ups of the impact, it was also observing the planetary defense test from afar, thanks to the help of the James Webb and Hubble Space Telescopes. On the surface, the images aren’t exactly the most striking things we’ve seen from either telescope, but they could help reveal a lot of valuable information.

This was the first time Hubble and JSWT observed the same celestial target simultaneously. While this was a milestone for the telescopes in themselves, NASA suggests the data they collect will help researchers learn more about the history and makeup of the solar system. You can use the information to learn more about the surface of Dimorphos (the asteroid in question), how much material was expelled after DART hit it, and how fast that material was moving.

JWST and Hubble captured different wavelengths of light (infrared and visible, respectively). NASA says observing multi-wavelength data will help scientists figure out whether large chunks of material left Dimorphos’ surface or if it was mostly fine dust. This is an important aspect of the test, as the data can help researchers determine whether crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid can alter its orbit. The ultimate goal is to develop a system that .

NASA says JWST captured images of “a tight, compact core with clouds of material appearing as wisps streaming away from the center of impact.” JWST, which acquired 10 images over five hours, will continue to collect spectroscopic data from the asteroid system in the coming months to help researchers better understand the chemical composition of Dimorphos. NASA shared a time-lapse GIF of the images JWST captured.

This animation, a time-lapse of images from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, covers the period just before the impact at 7:14 p.m. EDT on September 26 through 5 hours after the impact. Clouds of material from a compact core appear as wisps streaming away from the point of impact. An area of ​​rapid, extreme brightening is also visible in the animation.

NASA/ESA/CSA/Cristina Thomas (Northern Arizona University)/Ian Wong (NASA-GSFC)/Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

At approximately 14,000 MPH, Dimorphos was traveling at a speed more than three times faster than JWST was originally designed to track. However, the telescope’s flight operations, planning and science teams were able to devise a method to capture the impact.

As for Hubble, the 32-year-old telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 captured its own images of the collision. “Ejecta from the impact appears as jets radiating from the body of the asteroid,” according to NASA. The agency noted that some of the rays appear curved and astronomers need to examine the data to better understand what that could mean.

Expanding ejecta clouds emerge in these images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, taken 22 minutes, 5 hours and 8.2 hours (left to right) after NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) intentional impact on Dimorphos the body of the asteroid. The Hubble images show ejecta from the impact, which appear as jets extending from the asteroid's body. The broader, fanned-out ejection tip to the left of the asteroid is in the general direction from which DART approached.

NASA/ESA/Jian-Yang Li (PSI)/Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

However, according to their initial findings, the brightness of the asteroid system tripled after the impact. This brightness remained the same for at least eight hours. Hubble captured 45 images immediately before and after the DART impact. He will observe the asteroid system 10 more times over the next few weeks.

for DART, which is about the size of a vending machine, to reach Dimorphos. The soccer stadium-sized asteroid was about 6.8 million miles from Earth when DART struck it. Conducting such an experiment is not an easy task. The insights scientists gain from the test can prove invaluable.

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Russell Falcon

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