The world now has stunning new photos from this week’s asteroid strike, the first such planetary defense test.
NASA on Thursday released images of the dramatic event taken by the Hubble and Webb space telescopes.
Hours later, SpaceX joined NASA in announcing they were investigating the feasibility of sending a private mission to Hubble, potentially led by a billionaire, to raise the aging telescope’s orbit and extend its lifespan. .
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Telescopes on all seven continents saw NASA’s Dart spacecraft slam into harmless space rock, 7 million miles from Earth, on Monday in hopes of altering its orbit.
Scientists won’t know the precise change until November; the results of the demonstration should inspire confidence in using the technique if a killer asteroid is ever heading our way.
“This is an unprecedented vision of an unprecedented event,” Andy Rivkin, planetary astronomer and mission leader at Johns Hopkins University, said in a statement.
All of these images will help scientists learn more about the small asteroid Dimorphos, which took the hit and ended up with a sizable crater. The impact sent streams of rocks and dirt into space, appearing as rays of light in the latest photos.
The brightness of this dual asteroid system – the 525-foot Dimorphos is actually the moon around a larger asteroid – tripled after impact, as seen in Hubble images, according to NASA.
Hubble and Webb will continue to observe Dimorphos and its large companion Didymos over the next few weeks.
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The $325 million Dart mission was launched last year. The spacecraft was built and operated by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.
As for Hubble, NASA officials stressed Thursday that the observatory launched 32 years ago is in good condition and could still have a decade of life left.
Hubble’s orbit is constantly deteriorating, but the telescope could have even more years ahead of it if it grows from its current 335 miles above Earth to 375 miles or more. The six-month technical feasibility study will also examine whether any parts could be replaced, presumably by crew.
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Jared Isaacman, a Pennsylvania tech entrepreneur who funded his own SpaceX flight last year with contest winners, said a Hubble mission, if approved, would fit nicely into his series of planned spaceflights. But he refrained from saying whether he was volunteering.
“We’re working on crazy ideas all the time,” NASA science mission chief Thomas Zurbuchen told reporters. “Frankly, that’s what we’re supposed to do.”