Hubble timelapse shows DART probe colliding with asteroid

Hubble and a large number of telescopes were lined up to capture what has been called the first planetary defense event in our history.

The Hubble Space Telescope captured the partial breakup of asteroid Dimorphos when it was deliberately struck by the half-ton DART mission spacecraft on September 26, 2022.

The Hubble movie – now released by NASA – begins 1.3 hours before impact. The first post-impact snapshot is 2 hours after the event. The debris moves away from the asteroid in a straight line, at a speed greater than 6 km/h (enough to escape the asteroid’s gravitational attraction and not fall on it again). The ejecta form a hollow cone with long, fibrous filaments.

You can check out the stunning images below:

A meeting in phases

About 17 hours after impact, the debris pattern entered a second phase. Dynamic interaction within the binary began to distort the conical shape of the ejecta pattern. The most prominent structures are rotating pinwheel-like elements. The pinwheel is tied to the gravitational pull of the companion asteroid , Didymos .

Next, Hubble captures the debris being blown back into a comet- like tail by the pressure of sunlight on the tiny dust particles. This tail extends to form a debris train in which the lightest particles travel the fastest and farthest from the asteroid. The mystery is complicated later, when Hubble records how the tail splits in two for a few days.

planetary defense

This Hubble movie is part of a set of new studies published in the journal Nature on the DART mission .

NASA’s DART mission successfully deflected a 160-meter-diameter asteroid called Dimorphos, satellite of a 760-meter-diameter asteroid cataloged as Didymos. That DART probe impact with Dimorphos occurred on September 27, 2022 at 0h14m CET and marked a key moment for the so-called first planetary defense event in history.