Sept. 27, 2022: On Monday, Sept. 26th, NASA’s DART spacecraft hit asteroid Dimorphos. Surprising even NASA, ground-based telescopes had no trouble seeing the impact. Astronomers with the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) in Hawaii recorded a bright cloud of debris:
This was the result of the 1,340-pound spacecraft plunging into Dimorphos at 14,000 mph. Most of the debris is probably asteroid dust, but some of DART may be in there, too. A similar video was recorded by the 1-meter Lesedi telescope in South Africa.
Mission scientists say DART hit the asteroid less than 17 meters off center. Think about that: 17 meters off at a distance of 11 million kilometers. NASA still has the right stuff.
Now that the dust has cleared, astronomers are monitoring Dimorphos’s orbit to find out whether or not it has changed in response to the strike. Even a slight shift would prove that human tech can alter an asteroid’s trajectory–a possible strategy for future Planetary Defense.
more images: from Gianluca Masi using the Klein Karoo Observatory in South Africa; from Ernesto Guido using a remotely controlled 0.61-meter telescope in Chile; from Eliot Herman using a remotely controlled telescope in Siding Spring Australia