The James Webb Telescope managed to catch a unique glow from the event, which is still being studied by scientists along with the alterations Dimorphos has undergone since it was struck by a spacecraft dispatched from Earth. The most potent observatory in the world, along with Hubble, had focused its lenses on the activity.
Asteroid Didymos’ moonlet Dimorpos was struck by the Dart mission in order to test a novel method of deflecting asteroids through kinetic impact. Images from the event, returned by Hubble and Webb, showed that the brightness of the system grew by three times after impact and remained constant for eight hours.
Before the impact, the Hubble Telescope was already monitoring the asteroid and the spacecraft, and it continued to monitor the moonlet after the impact. In the moments leading up to and immediately after DART’s collision with Dimorphos, the spacecraft took 45 pictures.
Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 captured images of the impact in visible light, with plumes appearing as rays extending from the asteroid’s body.Astronomers are puzzled by some of the rays that appear to be slightly bent, according to NASA. Over the following three weeks, the flying observatory will observe the Didymos-Dimorphos system ten more times to better understand the ejecta that is spreading outward.
“I have nothing but tremendous admiration for the Webb Mission Operations folks that made this a reality. We have been planning these observations for years, then in detail for weeks, and I’m tremendously happy this has come to fruition,” principal investigator Cristina Thomas of Northern Arizona University, said in a statement.