December 1, 2022
NASA’s James Webb and Hubble Telescope Capture Detailed Views of Asteroid Attack

NASA’s James Webb and Hubble Telescope Capture Detailed Views of Asteroid Attack

The Dart mission was the world’s first space test for planetary defense.

Two NASA space telescopes – the James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope – have captured visuals of the DART spacecraft intentionally smashing into an asteroid earlier this week.

On Tuesday, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) intentionally crashed into the asteroid Dimorphos about 9.6 million kilometers from Earth, slamming into a rock at 22,500 kilometers per hour. This experiment was the world’s first in-space test for planetary defense. It was also the first time that the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope simultaneously observed the same celestial target, according to the US space agency.

Taking to Instagram, NASA said that images and videos taken with James Webb’s near-infrared camera show a tight, compact core with “heaps of material visible as streaming wisps” from where the impact happened.

Take a look below:

The space agency also said it was a “unique challenge” to see the impact of the Dart mission with Webb. “The asteroid Demorphos moved 3 times faster than the original speed limit Webb was designed to track! In the weeks leading up to the impact, teams carefully tested how they would accomplish the task,” it said. Caption has been added.

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The Hubble Telescope, on the other hand, captured images taken 22 minutes, five hours and 8.2 hours after the impact, NASA said. Photos taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 show the mission’s impact in visible light.

“Hubble images show movement of ejecta from dimorphos after impact. Ejecta visible as rays emanating from asteroid,” the Instagram post’s caption read.

“Webb and Hubble show what we have always known to be true at NASA: We learn more when we work together,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. Press note,

“For the first time, Webb and Hubble have simultaneously captured imagery from a single target in the universe: an asteroid that was impacted by a spacecraft after traveling seven million miles. The whole of humanity is eagerly waiting for discoveries to come from Webb. We look forward to seeing Hubble, and our ground-based telescope – about the Dart mission and beyond,” Mr. Nelson said.

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Now, according to NASA, simultaneous observations from Webb and Hubble will allow scientists to gain knowledge about the nature of Dimorphos’ surface, how much material was ejected from the collision, and how fast it was ejected. Combining this information with ground-based telescope observations will help scientists understand how effectively a kinetic effect can modify an asteroid’s orbit, the space agency said in its press release.

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