The asteroid hit by DART formed a 10,000 km tail

Dimorphos, the asteroid hit by the DART mission, has changed. A few days after the impact, a gigantic tail of material formed behind the asteroid.

Never before had mankind voluntarily hit an asteroid with a probe. On the night of September 26-27, 2022, the DART mission was successful, 11 million kilometers from our planet. The crash of the DART ship on the asteroid Dimorphos even yielded several stunning images.

The aftermath of DART’s impact on Dimorphos is now being monitored by astronomers. The goal of this test is to deflect the asteroid that is developing in orbit around another asteroid, Didymos. It will take time to know if DART actually disrupted Dimorphos’ trajectory. Nevertheless, astronomers have already noticed a change in how discovered him Eric Lagadec, astrophysicist at the French Riviera Observatory. A week after the impact, scientists note continued activity on the asteroid.

A huge dust trail emanates from the asteroid Dimorphos

Shortly after the crash, astronomers were surprised to find that Dimorphos had done so a tail of matter, like comets. A day after DART’s impact, Dimorphos appears to have become an active ejecting asteroid. In particular, we can see this structure in an image taken by the SOAR telescope in Chile. transmission October 3rd. The dust trail emanating from Dimorphos is estimated to be over 10,000 km long. As a reminder, Dimorphos itself is only 170 m in diameter.

Dimorphos tail after impact. // Source : Via Twitter @NOIRLabAstro (cropped photo)

As NewScientist notes, the dusty tail appears to be from the dust cloud observed around Dimorphos shortly after the DART impact. In the days that followed, this mass appears to have stretched into a trail that follows the asteroid. The process must have the same origin as comet tails: the proximity to the sun contributes to the ejection of the matter contained in the celestial object.

Observing such debris is a boon to astronomers, who can use it to learn more about the composition of Dimorphos. And once the cloud clears, we can hope to see the asteroid’s surface to draw other conclusions about DART’s effects.

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