The climax of the agency's Double Asteroid Redirection Test took place on Monday night when a NASA craft slammed into an asteroid.
The target asteroid, Dimorphos, wasn't seen in the images from the spaceship. Dimorphos looked like a single speck against a sea of black in some of the earliest images sent back to Earth. The DART craft was moving at a fast pace. The rough surface of Didymos was visible to viewers on Earth. Boulders filled the screen just before it went bright red, signifying a loss of signal for DART.
The scene of the collision has become the focus of telescopes around the world. The impact on the movement of Dimorphos will be watched. The crash is part of a practical planetary defense experiment to see if we can stop an asteroid from hitting us.
We potentially have the ability to protect ourselves from a dangerous asteroid impact as we embark on a new era of humankind. It's amazing. The director of NASA's Planetary Science Division said that they had never had that capability before.
Dimorphos and Didymos are not a threat to Earth. There is no threat to our planet from known asteroids. NASA is playing a lengthy game. The agency wants us to have options if an asteroid is spotted on a dangerous path.
One of the most direct options that DART is testing is if we slam something into an asteroid. Researchers will soon have an answer to the question of whether Dimorphos is between Earth and Didymos.
Scientists weren't able to see the asteroid until just before the crash. Every time Dimorphos crosses between it and Earth, Didymos can be seen by telescopes. The asteroid is moving quickly. They expect Dimorphos to speed up after the collision, but how close the asteroid will be to the computer models remains to be seen.
The Italian built LICIACube was released before impact. The pictures of the aftermath of DART will be sent back to researchers on Earth. The Hubble space telescope is one of the telescopes that will focus on the asteroid system. They will be watching Dimorphos to see if it has changed.