The image released Thursday is one of 18 Hubble observations of the Didymos-Dimorphos asteroid system from NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART. mission dropped a probe on Dimorphos in September.
“Repeated observations by Hubble in recent weeks have allowed scientists to present a complete picture of how the system’s debris cloud has evolved over time,” according to a statement from NASA and the European Space Agency, which work together on Hubble.
“Observations show that the expelled material or ‘ejecta’ has expanded and the brightness has faded over time after the impact, largely as expected,” the statement said. “The twin tail is an unexpected development, although similar behavior is seen in comets and active asteroids. Hubble’s observations provide the best quality of a double tail to date.”
Scientists are working to understand the significance of the split tail. NASA says it’s a newly formed northern tail, and scientists will use Hubble data to study more precisely how it might have formed in the coming months.
Dimorphos, the target of NASA’s DART mission, is a smaller asteroid orbiting the larger Didymos. Astronomers predicted that the mission could be considered a success if the impact of the DART spacecraft shortened Dimorphos’ orbit by 10 seconds. But NASA revealed this this month itk was able to cut its trajectory in 32 seconds, from an orbit of 11 hours and 55 minutes to 11 hours and 23 minutes.
The DART mission was the world’s first for planetary defense. one day with the goal of testing technology that could be used to deflect an asteroid headed for Earth. The mission was also the first time humans intentionally changed the motion of an object in space.