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Probe vs asteroid: impressive images of the impact

It was not obvious for the first, which is not designed to detect moving objects. But in his case, it is possible that his instruments will help to learn more about the chemical composition of the asteroid.

The impact of DART on an asteroid, seen by the James-Webb telescope. Infrared image, taken 4 hours after impact. Photo: NASA/ESA/STSci

As for Hubble, it was unlucky to have the Earth between Dimorphos and it at the moment of impact. But he took photos afterwards, showing the expanding cloud of debris.

The after-impact of DART on the asteroid, seen by Hubble
The post-impact of DART on the asteroid, seen by the Hubble telescope. Ultraviolet images taken 22 minutes, 5 hours and 8.2 hours respectively after impact. Photo: NASA/ESA

What impact on the orbit of the asteroid?

In theory, all this data on the dust column or plume should help to learn more about the structure and composition of Dimorphos.

But ultimately, it is the impact that this collision will have on the orbit of this “moon” around its asteroid – 11 hours and 55 minutes for the moment – which remains the raison d’ĂȘtre of the mission.

A change, however small, could reveal how much force would be needed to divert an asteroid from its course towards us – if such an operation ever proves necessary.