The LICIACube was deployed from DART days before the impact in order to observe the historic event up close.
The Italian LICIACube probe has sent its first images of the impact of the DART spacecraft against the Dimorphos asteroid in the first planetary defense test in history.
The LICIACube separated days before DART in order to be able to position itself 55 kilometers from the asteroid and not suffer any impact threat from the debris from Monday’s event. And one day after that, he is already giving us his first catches.
What LICIACube saw of the impact
The LICIACube images are clear, showing the protagonists in the middle of the event.
Its most striking capture – the one on our cover – shows a cloud of debris left by the DART impact on Dimorphos, the smallest asteroid in the system. Of course, an imposing Didymos observes the event.
Dimorphos, the victim, is of the ‘rubble pile’ type because they keep loose conglomerates on their surface. And in the rest of the images you can see how many of them shoot out after the collision, leaving a kind of tentacles.
These images are the most anticipated by the scientific community, since the Italian probe is the closest to the event.
Now what’s next in the DART project?
The debris will leave valuable information for estimates of the object’s structure and surface material, while observations of the unimpacted side will refine estimates of the small moon’s dimensions and volume.
Scientists will then use this information to improve their impact simulation models.
However, the main answer that NASA and the other agencies are currently looking for is to know how much the orbit of Dimorphos changed (or not) with respect to Didymos and confirm if the mission has really been successful. If it is a positive case, science will be able to make estimates for different types of threats to the planet, which would save us from a new possible collision like the one that allowed the extinction of the dinosaurs.