Last year, NASA’s DART probe collided with the asteroid Dimorphos. The Hubble Space Telescope has now caught breathtaking detail of the subsequent debris. On September 26, 2022, DART purposely collided with Dimorphos, slightly altering its orbit around the bigger asteroid Didymos.

According to a NASA press release, the astronomers used the Hubble telescope to uncover a swarm of rocks that were presumably shaken off the asteroid when NASA purposely slammed the half-ton DART impactor spacecraft into Dimorphos at nearly 14,000 miles per hour.

New Hubble Space Telescope photos indicate that the impact also launched 37 rocks ranging in size from one metre (three feet) to seven metres (22 feet) into space. According to a new analysis, they comprise around 2% of the pebbles that were already scattered across the surface of the barely held-together asteroid.

The discovery implies that future attempts to divert life-threatening asteroids from Earth could possibly spew rocks in our way. But these specific rocks pose no harm to Earth; in fact, they have scarcely moved. They’re moving away from Dimorphos at around a kilometre (half a mile) each hour, or about the speed of a big tortoise, according to Hubble.

The stones are travelling so slowly that the European Space Agency’s Hera mission, which will arrive at the asteroid to investigate the damage in late 2026, will be able to see them. According to Jewitt, the scattering of the boulders implies that DART produced a crater about 50 metres (160 feet) broad on Dimorphos. The entire asteroid measures 170 metres in diameter.

The scientists intend to continue following the boulders to establish their course and how they launched from the surface. The findings were published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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