(ORDO NEWS) — Two tails of dust ejected from the Didim-Dimorph asteroid system are visible in new images taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. These photographs document the lingering aftermath of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission.
DART collided with Dimorph, a small moon of Didyma, on September 26 while testing one of the planetary defense methods. Current data shows that DART has shortened Dimorph’s original orbit of 11 hours and 55 minutes by about 32 minutes.
Repeated Hubble observations over the past few weeks have given scientists a more complete picture of how the debris cloud has evolved over time.
Observations show that the ejected material expanded and faded in brightness over time. The double tail is an unexpected phenomenon, although this behavior is often seen in comets and active asteroids.
After the collision, Hubble made 18 observations of the system. The images show that the second tail formed between October 2 and 8.
The connection between the comet-like tail and other features of the ejecta, seen at different times in images from Hubble and other telescopes, is still unclear, and the research team is currently trying to figure it out. In the coming months, scientists will take a closer look at the Hubble data to determine how the second tail developed. There are a number of possible scenarios that the team will explore.
The Hubble data was collected as part of the Cycle 29 General Observers Program 16674.
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