CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The asteroid struck by a NASA spacecraft is now being trailed by thousands of miles of debris from the impact.
Astronomers captured the scene millions of kilometers away with a telescope in Chile. Their remarkable observation two days after last month’s planetary defense test was recently published at a National Science Foundation lab in Arizona.
The image shows an expanding, comet-like tail more than 10,000 kilometers long made up of dust and other material spewed from the impact crater.
That cloud is accelerating away from the harmless asteroid, in large part due to solar radiation pressure, said Matthew Knight of the US Naval Research Laboratory, who made the observation with the Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope along with Teddy Kareta of the Lowell Observatory.
Scientists expect the tail to get even longer and spread out even further, becoming so thin at one point that it’s undetectable.
“At that point, the material will be like any other dust floating around the solar system,” Knight said in an email on Tuesday.
Further observations are planned to determine how much and what type of material was ejected from the 160-meter-tall Dimorphos, a small moon of a larger asteroid.
NASA’s Dart spacecraft, launched almost a year ago, was destroyed in a head-on collision. The $325 million mission to deflect an asteroid’s orbit was intended as a dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock comes our way. Dimorphos and its companion rocks have never posed a threat to Earth, according to NASA, and do not do so today.
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https://wgntv.com/news/nexstar-media-wire/comet-like-debris-trail-stretches-6000-miles-after-nasa-asteroid-crash-test%EF%BF%BC/ A comet-like debris trail stretches 6,000 miles according to NASA’s asteroid crash test