Impressive images of Dart’s impact on an asteroid from the ESA Ground Observation Campaign

Impressive images of Dart's impact on an asteroid from the ESA Ground Observation Campaign
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28/09/2022
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Impressive Images of Dart Effect

Last night at 01:14 CEST, NASA’s DART spacecraft successfully impacted asteroid Dimorphos, orbiting the 160-meter companion large asteroid Didymos. About 38 seconds later – the time it took light to reach Earth – people around the world saw an abrupt end of data transmission from the spacecraft, indicating that the impact had been successful – DART was gone.

Astronomers were able to follow the impact live with their telescopes on a small portion of our planet’s surface, stretching from southern and eastern Africa to the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Peninsula. Among them were half a dozen observatories that participated in a special observation campaign organized by ESA’s Office of Planetary Defense and coordinated by the observation team at ESA’s Near-Earth Objects Coordination Center (NEOCC). As always when such an astronomical event occurs at a given time, not all participating observatories are successful with their observations: clouds or technical problems can always affect such observations.

However, few observatories working with ESA were able to directly confirm a successful Dart impact. They included a team from the Les Meaux Observatory on the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. The images that came in real time were impressive: the asteroid began to glow shortly after impact, and within seconds it was already noticeably brighter. In less than a minute, a pile of ejected material was visible and could be tracked as it headed east and slowly dissipated.

Based on observations made by the Les Meaux Observatory on La Réunion, this video shows in a few seconds what happened in less than half an hour.

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“Something like this had never happened before and we weren’t quite sure what to expect. It was an emotional moment for us when the images arrived,” explains astronomer Marco Micheli of ESA’s NEO-CC.

Another NEO-CC astronomer, Dora Fohring, says:

“It was the result of weeks of discussions, sessions, and precise planning of our observations with local observers and scientists from all partner observatories. This spectacular campaign has produced data that our astronomers are now valuable scientists to gain from all collaborating DART scientists. are analyzing together with information about the effects of the impact.”

With the end of the DART mission, work begins for researchers around the world, and a new chapter begins for ESA’s HERA mission, which is now leading the investigation of the first close-up test of asteroid deflection .

“The DART results will prepare us for a visit to Hera’s Didymos binary asteroid system to study the consequences of this impact a few years from now,” said Hera mission director Ian Carnelli.

Hera will help us understand what happened to Dimorphos, the first celestial body ever measured by mankind, and ultimately protect us from space rocks that may one day do the same.”

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