Remarkable images show moment Nasa’s Dart spacecraft smashed into asteroid

The collision was part of the world's first planetary defence test

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The first images that show the moment Nasa’s Dart spacecraft crashed into an asteroid have been released.

The collision on Tuesday was part of a planetary defence test by the US space agency, and the asteroid posed no threat to Earth.

Nasa’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart) spacecraft targeted a binary asteroid system and smashed into a 160-metre-wide “moonlet” Dimorphos — which orbits larger asteroid Didymos — to see if it could shift it slightly off course.

Viewers across the world could watch from a camera at the front of the spacecraft as it crashed into the asteroid at a speed of 24,000km an hour — fast enough to travel from New York to Paris in 15 minutes.

But now new images show the collision from another perspective, helping reveal the drama that followed the impact.

The pictures were captured by Italian Space Agency’s LiciaCube, a small cube satellite that was released by the Dart spacecraft on September 11.

“Here are the pictures taken by LiciaCube of the world’s first planetary defence mission,” tweeted Argotec Space, a private company that built the satellite for the Italian Space Agency.

“This is exactly where the Nasa’s Dart mission ended. An incredible emotion, the beginning of new discoveries.”

The images show large amounts of material flying from Dimorphos’s surface after the impact.

They also show the asteroid approaching its larger companion Didymos.

The Italian Space Agency said its tiny satellite captured several images and these are the first ones to be released.

Scientists will now study the impact of the collision in greater detail to understand whether the binary asteroid system was successfully shifted off course.

The test has shown that a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and intentionally collide with it ― a method of deflection called kinetic impact.

Updated: September 28, 2022, 6:30 AM
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