(ORDO NEWS) — The SOAR telescope captured a long tail of gas and dust from the spacecraft’s purposeful collision with Dimorph.
An accidental fall of an asteroid to Earth can lead to a very serious disaster. The chances of this happening are extremely small, but the threat remains significant enough for scientists and engineers to develop plans for protection.
NASA is implementing such a program, testing the ability to deflect such a celestial body out of the way with an accurate blow.
To do this, at the end of 2021, the DART spacecraft was launched, and on September 26 this year, it successfully hit its target, Dimorph, a tiny satellite of the near-Earth asteroid Didim.
The collision and its aftermath were monitored by dozens of telescopes, as well as a small European satellite, LICIACube, whose flyby of Didyma was synchronized with this operation.
Two days after the operation, the 4.1-meter SOAR telescope operating in Chile at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory was sent to Dimorph and Didim.
It provided an image of the long tail of dust and debris that stretched out behind the binary system after the DART impact.
The size of the tail in the image reached 3.1 arc seconds, which made it possible to estimate its size – 10 thousand kilometers.
It is worth recalling that the Dimorph itself is gaining only about 150 meters in diameter.
“Now a new phase of work has begun for the DART team,” said astrophysicist Teddy Kareta, who received the new image.
“It will analyze data from both our and other observations made around the world to study this extraordinary event. We plan to use SOAR to monitor emissions over the coming weeks and months.”
Such work will allow scientists to better understand the composition and properties of Dimorph, to estimate the amount of matter ejected as a result of the impact of the space probe, the speed of its movement and, most importantly, the changes in orbit that the collision led to.
And in a few years Didyma will be visited by the European device Hera, which will consider the results of the operation from a close distance.
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