After the DART mission from NASA collided with the asteroid Dimorphos, the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope obtained photographs of what was left behind at the same time.
The aftermath of the DART mission was captured by both the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope.
Photographs taken by Joseph DePasquale and Alyssa Pagan, courtesy of the Space Telescope Science Institute
Both of the world's most powerful telescopes, now in operation, have captured photographs of the same relatively little asteroid. Following the completion of NASA's Double Asteroid Redirect Test, both the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) captured images of the asteroid Dimorphos at the same time (DART).
The DART spacecraft made a direct impact with the smaller asteroid Dimorphos on September 26 in an effort to alter its orbit around the larger asteroid Didymos. Both Hubble and the JWST were able to observe Dimorphos before and after the collision, during which massive plumes of dust and debris were generated.
Because Dimorphos is absolutely safe, it serves as an excellent test subject for the DART project, which aims to determine whether or not it would be possible for us to utilise a spacecraft very similar to it in order to divert an asteroid that was heading in the direction of Earth. The material qualities of the asteroid, as well as the amount of change in Dimorphos' orbit around Didymos, will be analysed by researchers so that they can determine how successful the experiment was.
With the help of these images from Hubble and JWST, scientists will be able to figure out what Dimorphos is comprised of, how much of it was destroyed in the collision and sent hurtling off into space, and how quickly that material was sent hurtling away. This will help us understand the best strategy to deflect a potentially hazardous asteroid from its path.
This is the first occasion that the two massive space telescopes have simultaneously gazed at the same object. Both will keep an eye on Dimorphos over the next few weeks and months to follow the growing cloud of debris and investigate the pristine surface of the asteroid beneath all of the dust that was blown away.