The 1998 blockbuster Armageddon was about a fictional last-ditch attempt by
Now, 25 years later, the U.S.
During the immediate aftermath of
“We’ve never witnessed an object collide with an asteroid in a binary asteroid system before in real time, and it’s really surprising,” said Jian-Yang Li, who led a study published in the journal Nature about the mission,
Hubble was able to record a much wider view than could be seen by the Italian
NASA deliberately crashed a spacecraft into a harmless asteroid through the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, better known as DART, on Sept. 26, 2022. The exercise tested the space agency’s capability to
A couple of weeks later, astronomers reported that the experiment was effective, giving Earthlings a bit of peace of mind. Scientists used ground-based telescopes to measure how the impact to Dimorphos,
Five papers published in the journal Nature on March 1 confirm
“Too much stuff is going on here. It’s going to take some time to figure out.”
The nameless spacecraft, about 1,300 pounds, carried no explosives. Its “weapon” was its own body and the sheer force of plowing into an asteroid at 14,000 mph. Scientists have likened the mission to running a golf cart into the Great Pyramid of Giza.
But it was the slap heard ’round the solar system.
The key was that the spacecraft wasn’t the only thing to give Dimorphos a push, according to the new research. When the asteroid flung out pulverized rock, it sustained
Credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL
Hubble’s movie, free of cameos from Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck, shows three primary stages following the crash: the forming of a blast cone, a pinwheel of debris surprisingly tied to the asteroid’s companion, Didymos, and a tail swept behind the asteroid.
The first post-impact snapshot in the time-lapse captures debris flying away over 4 mph — fast enough to break free of the asteroid’s gravitational pull. About 17 hours after the hit, the blast cone begins to morph into different structures, including
“When I first saw these images, I couldn’t believe these features,” Li said in a
Then, the asteroid grows a comet-like tail of debris. In a baffling turn of events, it splits into two tails for a few days.
Scientists say the DART crash will give them
The mission was an important first step in an international effort to prepare for these types of existential threats,
“NASA is trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at us,” he said.