NASA’s DART asteroid collision shown in newly released photos
Stunning images showing the intentional collision of NASA’s DART spacecraft with an asteroid were released on Tuesday.
The Italian Space Agency has shared the first images taken by the tiny camera that tracks the vending machine-sized spacecraft, the LICIACube – or Light Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroids.
The images were transmitted seven million miles to Earth about three hours after NASA’s successful impact on the asteroid on Monday night in a test to prepare for when a massive space rock actually threatens Earth, according to Space.com.
Images from Agenzia Spaziale Italiana show the asteroid before and after impact, with clouds of debris surrounding the 530ft space rock, called Dimorphos. A picture shows a bright flash of light as the spaceship struck.
“We are really very proud,” said Elisabetta Dotto, head of the scientific team at the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF), during a press conference held in Italy on Tuesday.
The images are the first of several to be released in the coming days.
« Dimorphos is completely covered by this emission of dust and detritus produced by the impact, » Dotto said.
DART, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, slammed into Dimorphos at 15,000 miles per hour around 7:15 p.m. Monday evening, destroying the craft as planned.
The spacecraft successfully pulled it out of its 12-hour orbit, scientists say.
Astronomers are now monitoring the Didymos asteroid system to measure the acceleration of Dimorphos’ orbit, according to Space.com.
« We still need a little patience, let the scientists speak to understand the value of these images », Giorgio Saccoccia, president of the ASI, Told journalists.
The $325 million mission will likely only benefit future generations, as no known asteroid larger than 450 feet is expected to hit Earth in the next century, according to the Planetary Defense Coordination Office.
LICIACube, Italy’s first deep-space mission, is now hurtling through the depths of space toward oblivion as it continues to beam images back to Earth.