On September 26, 2022, NASA’s DART spacecraft intentionally crashed into the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos for the first planetary defense test. Two days after the impact, astronomers used the 4.1-m Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) Telescope at NSF’s NOIRLab’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory to capture the vast plume of dust and debris blasted from the asteroid’s surface.
In the image from the SOAR telescope, the dust trail can be seen stretching from the center to the right-hand edge of the field of view.
The ejecta have been pushed away by the Sun’s radiation pressure, not unlike the tail of a comet.
At Didymos’ distance from Earth at the time of the observation, that would equate to at least 10,000 km (6,000 miles) from the point of impact.
“It is amazing how clearly we were able to capture the structure and extent of the aftermath in the days following the impact,” said Dr. Teddy Kareta, an astronomer at Lowell Observatory.
“Now begins the next phase of work for the DART team as they analyze their data and observations by our team and other observers around the world who shared in studying this exciting event,” added Dr. Matthew Knight, an astronomer with U.S. Naval Academy.
“We plan to use SOAR to monitor the ejecta in the coming weeks and months.”
“The combination of SOAR and the Astronomical Event Observatory Network (AEON) is just what we need for efficient follow-up of evolving events like this one.”
“These observations will allow us to gain knowledge about the nature of the surface of Dimorphos, how much material was ejected by the collision, how fast it was ejected, and the distribution of particle sizes in the expanding dust cloud — for example, whether the impact caused the moonlet to throw off big chunks of material or mostly fine dust.”
“Analyzing this information will help us protect Earth and its inhabitants by better understanding the amount and nature of the ejecta resulting from an impact, and how that might modify an asteroid’s orbit.”
Source link: https://www.sci.news/space/debris-trail-dart-collision-dimorphos-11255.html