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The Hubble Space Telescope captured a new snapshot of the asteroid recently taken by NASA Swipe with a spaceship In an effort to derail it, the image reveals the clearest look yet at some unexpected outcome of the mission – a double tail of dust behind the asteroid system.
The image, released Thursday, is one of 18 observations the Hubble Telescope has made for the Didymos-Demorphos asteroid system since NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, Mission crashed a probe at Demorphos in September.
“Repeated observations from Hubble over the past several weeks have allowed scientists to provide a more complete picture of how the system’s debris cloud has evolved over time,” according to a statement from NASA and the European Space Agency, which are jointly working on Hubble.
“Observations show that the ejecta, or ‘ballistics,’ expanded and faded in brightness over time after impact, as is largely expected,” the statement read. “Twin tails is an unexpected development, although similar behavior is common in Active comets and asteroids. Hubble observations provide the best double-tail image quality to date.”
Scientists are working to understand the importance of splitting the tail. NASA has indicated that the northern tail is the newly created one, and scientists will use data from Hubble in the coming months to examine more closely how it formed.
Demorphos, the target of NASA’s DART mission, is a smaller asteroid orbiting the larger Didymus. Astronomers predicted that the mission could be considered a success if the impact of the DART spacecraft could shorten Demorphos’ orbit by 10 seconds. But this month, NASA revealed that It was able to trim its trajectory by 32 minutes – from a run of 11 hours 55 minutes to 11 hours and 23 minutes.
The DART mission was the first in the world to be conducted on behalf of Planetary Defense, With the goal of testing technology that could one day be used to deflect an asteroid bound for Earth. The mission was also the first time humanity had intentionally altered the motion of an object in space.
Correction: An earlier version of this report miscalculated the amount of time NASA’s DART mission crossed Demorphos’ orbit around Didymus.
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