NASA space telescopes capture asteroid impacts with stunning clarity

All of these images will help scientists learn more about the small asteroid Dimorphos, which took the hit and ended up with a sizeable crater.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The world now has stunning new photos of this week’s asteroid impact, the first planetary defense test of its kind.

NASA on Thursday released images of the dramatic event taken by the Hubble and Webb Space Telescopes.

A few hours later, SpaceX joined NASA and announced that they were studying the feasibility of sending a private mission to Hubble, possibly led by a billionaire, to raise the orbit of the aging telescope and extend its lifespan.

Telescopes on all seven continents watched as NASA’s Dart spacecraft slammed into the harmless space rock 7 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth on Monday in hopes of altering its orbit.

Scientists won’t know the exact change until November; The demo results are intended to inspire confidence in the application of the technique should a killer asteroid come our way one day.

RELATED: Galactic Grand Slam: NASA’s Dart crashes into an asteroid

“This is an unprecedented view of an unprecedented event,” planetary astronomer and Johns Hopkins University chief of mission Andy Rivkin said in a statement.

All of these images will help scientists learn more about the small asteroid Dimorphos, which took the hit and ended up with a sizeable crater. The impact sent streams of rock and dirt into space, which appear as bright jets in the latest photos.

The brightness of this dual asteroid system — the 160-meter-tall Dimorphos is actually the small moon surrounding a larger asteroid — tripled in brightness after impact, as seen in Hubble images, according to NASA.

Hubble and Webb will continue to monitor Dimorphos and its large companion Didymos for the next few weeks.

The $325 million darts mission was launched last year. The spacecraft was built and maintained by Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

As for Hubble, NASA officials stressed Thursday that the observatory, launched 32 years ago, is in good shape and may live for another decade.

Hubble’s orbit is steadily decreasing, but the telescope could have more years to come if it were raised to 375 miles (600 kilometers) or more from its current 335 miles (540 kilometers) above the Earth. The six-month technical feasibility study will also assess whether parts could be swapped out, presumably by crew.

Jared Isaacman, a Pennsylvania tech entrepreneur who funded his own SpaceX flight with contest winners last year, said a Hubble mission, if approved, would fit well into his planned series of space flights. But he briefly stopped to say if he volunteered.

“We’re always working on crazy ideas,” Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science mission, told reporters. “Honestly, that’s what we’re supposed to do.”

https://www.kvue.com/article/news/nation-world/nasa-telescopes-capture-dart-asteroid-strike/507-9ea2e9f7-4d93-47aa-a73d-df4e31b53ce8 NASA space telescopes capture asteroid impacts with stunning clarity

Laura Coffey

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