SCIENTISTS have released the first images from a tiny satellite watching a spacecraft crash into an asteroid on Monday.
Microwave-sized spacecraft LICIACube has captured snaps of Nasa’s successful DART crash aimed at altering the orbit of the space rock.
The images reached Earth 24 hours later and show bright debris stemming from the incredible collision 6.8 million miles away.
They also captured a before-and-after image of the Didymos system, the pair of rocks that served as DART’s target.
According to Nasa, the $330 million mission was the first test of a new planetary defense system.
In the future, similar spacecraft could be used to deflect doomsday asteroids into a collision orbit with our planet.
The space agency broadcast live footage from DART as it struck Dimorphos, a 550-foot moon orbiting asteroid Didymos.
LICIACube, a satellite that detached from the spacecraft before the impact, collected data before, during and after the crash.
Images from the Italian-built probe show Didymos in the foreground, appearing as a large, bright spot.
Beyond is the smaller moon Dimorphos, with a series of swirling lines erupting from it in all directions.
These lines are debris from DART, which was catapulted as it collided with the space rock at 4.1 miles per second (6.6 km/s).
The images should show how much of the small moon was destroyed by the impact, as well as provide information about its composition.
The Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIAcube) was built by the Italian Space Agency and launched together with DART.
It is equipped with two cameras, LEIA and LUKE, which took pictures during its flyby at a distance of 34 miles from Didymos.
After the flyby, it will spend a few weeks sending data back to Earth.
If it still has enough fuel left, the researchers can then send it on an asteroid visit.
While Dimorphos posed no threat to Earth, the mission’s goal was to demonstrate that dangerous oncoming rocks can be deflected by intentionally smashing them.
US space agency officials cheered and clapped in a video shared online as the vending machine-sized spacecraft successfully crashed into football stadium-sized Dimorphos.
“And we have an impact. A triumph for humanity in the name of planetary defense,” said a member of the NASA team in video captured in the control room as the collision occurred.
In a live question-and-answer session after the crash, senior executives from Nasa and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory said the mission went “right down the middle” and nothing went wrong.
Dimorphos is part of a binary asteroid system and orbits Didymos lasting about 11 hours and 55 minutes.
But NASA astronomers hope that Dart, while self-destructing in the process, shortened that orbital period by about 10 minutes.
It will be several weeks before scientists can say if the experiment worked.
Nasa previously said: “Dart’s target asteroid is not a threat to Earth, but it is the perfect testing ground to see if this method of asteroid deflection — known as the kinetic impactor technique — would be a viable way to protect our planet if an asteroid crashed into one.” Collision course with Earth have been discovered in the future.”
There are currently about 27,000 asteroids in low Earth orbit.
Rocks that are 140 meters (460 feet) and larger and come closer than 4.7 million miles (7.5 million km) during orbit are classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs).
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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/9479390/first-images-nasa-spacecraft-smashing-asteroid-mission-satellite/ First images of Nasa spacecraft crashing into an asteroid from a nearby satellite in a “world rescue mission” have been revealed