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Tuesday December 06, 2022

First images of asteroid strike from Webb, Hubble telescopes

By AFP
September 30, 2022

PARIS: The James Webb and Hubble telescopes on Thursday revealed their initial images of a spacecraft deliberately crashing into an asteroid, marking the first time the two most powerful space telescopes have observed the same celestial object.

The world’s telescopes turned their gaze towards the space rock Dimorphos earlier this week for a historic test of Earth’s ability to defend itself against a potential future life-threatening asteroid. Astronomers rejoiced as Nasa’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) impactor slammed into its pyramid-sized target 11 million kilometres from Earth on Monday night. Images taken by Earth-bound telescopes showed a vast cloud of dust expanding out of Dimorphos -- and its big brother Didymos which it orbits -- after the spacecraft hit.

While those images showed matter spraying out over thousands of kilometres, the James Webb and Hubble images "zoom in much closer", said Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queen’s University Belfast involved in observations with the ATLAS project.

James Webb and Hubble can see "within just a few kilometres of the asteroids and you can really clearly see how the material is flying out from that explosive impact by DART", Fitzsimmons said.

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