View of the twin tails created by the Hubble asteroid impact mission

View of the twin tails created by the Hubble asteroid impact mission

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The Hubble Space Telescope captured a new snapshot of the asteroid that NASA recently captured Slammed with a spacecraft In an effort to knock it off, of course, and the image reveals the clearest look yet of some of the mission’s unexpected results — a twin tail of dust trailing the asteroid system.

The image released Thursday is one of 18 observations made by the Hubble Telescope of the Didymos-Dimorphs asteroid system as part of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Experiment, or DART. An investigation into Dimorphos crashed in mission September.

“Repeated observations from Hubble over the past few weeks have allowed scientists to provide a more complete picture of how the system’s debris cloud has evolved,” according to a statement from NASA and the European Space Agency, which jointly operate Hubble.

“The observations show that the ejected material, or ‘ejecta,’ expanded and faded in brightness over time after the impact, as originally expected,” the statement said. “Twin tails are an unexpected development, although similar behavior is commonly seen in comets and active asteroids. The Hubble observations provide the best quality image of a double-tail to date.”

Scientists are working to understand the significance of the split tail. NASA notes that this is the northernmost tail that was newly formed, and scientists will use Hubble data to examine more closely how it may have formed in the coming months.

Dimorphos, the target of NASA’s Dart mission, is a small asteroid orbiting the larger Didymos. Astronomers estimated that the mission could be considered a success if the impact of the DART spacecraft could shorten Dimorphos’ orbit by 10 seconds. But NASA revealed it this month it was able to reduce its orbit by 32 minutes – from an orbit of 11 hours and 55 minutes to 11 hours and 23 minutes.

The DART mission was the world’s first mission for planetary defense, With the goal of testing technology that could one day be used to deflect an asteroid headed for Earth. The mission was also the first time humanity intentionally changed the motion of an object in space.

Correction: A previous version of this report misstated the amount of time that NASA’s DART mission could spend in Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos.

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