The final view of DART is amazing.
The DART mission was designed to test a technique that humans could use to keep Earth out of harm's way if an asteroid were to hit us. It's a more scientific way of describing slamming something heavy and fast- moving into an asteroid. That is what DART did tonight at 7:14 pm. The asteroid called Dimorphos was hit by the crash. The result is a wonderful collection of images.
During NASA's broadcast of the event this evening, Nancy Chabot, DART mission coordination lead, said that they exceeded her expectations.
The DART asteroid- impact mission is explained in pictures.
The system of Dimorphos, which is just a point of light to telescopes on Earth, is new to scientists. The final view of the asteroid was taken about two and a half seconds before the crash, according to a NASA timeline.
Scientists have not seen a lot of asteroids. As DART's final images came down to Earth, mission team members and everyone who watched the livestream saw an amazing field of gray rocks.
The images are already being pointed at by other scientists as if they were pictures of a boulder. Is that smooth area you saw? "He said that."
The images are very similar to photographs taken by NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission at the asteroid Bennu. The asteroids were named for the spread of rocks seen on their surface. Dimorphos appears to be more of a "space potato" than the other two asteroids.
DART was equipped with a single instrument. Before snapping the incredible final stream, DRACO was also responsible for helping steer the spacecraft into Dimorphos, an impressive feat given that they only had about an hour and a half to spot the moonlet.
There will be more images of Dimorphos snapped by the Light Italian Cubesat over the coming days. LICIACube flew past the impact site three minutes after the collision to take pictures of the debris. The cubesat's cameras were turned on to the unscarred side of Dimorphos, giving scientists more data.
Scientists have another chance to look at Dimorphos in detail. Hera, a follow-up mission, will be launched by the European space agency. Unlike DART, Hera will stay in the neighborhood and explore both Dimorphos and Didymos when she arrives. Scientists will be able to see the impact crater and the asteroids' natural states after the dust has settled.
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