NASA’s DART Mission Redirects Dimorphos’ Orbit and Activates Asteroid – Captured by the Hubble Space Telescope

In September 2022, NASA launched its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission to demonstrate a technique for deflecting asteroids on a collision course with Earth.[0] The DART spacecraft collided with a small asteroid moon called Dimorphos, which orbits a larger asteroid called Didymos.[1] Although neither asteroid posed a hazard to Earth, they were similar to the celestial bodies that may one day come close enough to put the planet in danger.[2]

The collision with Dimorphos resulted in a 33-minute decrease in its orbit, reducing its orbital period around its parent asteroid, Didymos, to less than 11 and a half hours. The change is significantly greater than had been expected, as pre-impact, researchers anticipated the impact to shorten Dimorphos' orbit by only about 10 minutes. Tony Farnham, co-author of the study, stated “in other words, the ejected material acted as a jet to push the moon even further out of its original orbit.”[3]

The impact from the collision with Dimorphos was observed by several telescopes, liberating debris which formed a tail stretching more than the 1,500 kilometers.[4] For around three weeks, the team used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the tail and noticed that its shape is comparable to that of “active asteroids”, which have a trajectory like an asteroid and a tail similar to comets.[5] This correspondence suggests that collisions can cause asteroids to become active.[5]

The European Space Agency’s Hera mission is scheduled to launch in October 2024 and arrive at Didymos two years later.[6] Hera is tasked with thoroughly investigating the Didymos-Dimorphos system, including the crater created by DART's impact.[7]

In a paper headed by astronomer Jian-Yang Li of the Planetary Science Institute, a thorough examination was conducted of the ejecta – the material that was expelled from the asteroid due to the explosive collision.[8] The ejecta formed a tail that trails behind the moonlet, and over the course of 18.5 days, the tail evolved into Dimorphos’ striking new tail.[9]

The Hubble Space Telescope captured the event as it unfolded, stitching together images taken during a period that started more than an hour before the collision and ended October 8.[10] In the clip, released by NASA on Wednesday, debris can be seen flying away from the asteroid, rotating pinwheel-shaped features becoming visible once the asteroid's orbit distorts the original cone shape of the debris.[11]

0. “Hubble captures timelapse video of DART spacecraft impacting asteroid” New Atlas, 2 Mar. 2023,

1. “NASA's Asteroid-Bashing DART Mission Was Wildly Successful” Scientific American, 1 Mar. 2023,

2. “NASA's asteroid deflection test shaved 33 minutes off the rock's orbit” Daily Mail, 1 Mar. 2023,

3. “New NASA DART data prove viability of asteroid deflection as planetary defense strategy”, 1 Mar. 2023,

4. “Slam! Hubble sees strange changes in asteroid dust after DART collision (video)”, 1 Mar. 2023,

5. “3Q: What we learned from the asteroid-smashing DART mission” MIT News, 2 Mar. 2023,

6. “NASA's DART Mission Changed the Course of Planetary Defense” Gizmodo, 1 Mar. 2023,

7. “DART's epic asteroid crash: What NASA has learned 5 months later”, 1 Mar. 2023,

8. “NASA Slammed a Spacecraft Into an Asteroid And It Didn't Go Quite as Expected” ScienceAlert, 1 Mar. 2023,

9. “NASA's Asteroid Smashing Mission Was a Huge Success for Planetary Defense” Inverse, 1 Mar. 2023,

10. “Nasa reveals Armageddon-style asteroid crash WORKED and could save us from future killer space rocks…” The Sun, 2 Mar. 2023,

11. “Hubble Space Telescope captured ‘movie' of spacecraft slamming into asteroid” CBS News, 2 Mar. 2023,

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