Astronomers continue to monitor the fate of asteroid Dimorph, which NASA engineers managed to divert from its usual orbit last year by crashing a spacecraft worth nearly a third of a billion dollars into it.
But the collision was far from accidental. On the contrary, scientists had to go to great lengths to carefully plan and execute the “accident” from a distance of about 11 million kilometers (about 25 times farther than the distance to the moon) from our planet.
NASA has now released another image of Dimorph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in December last year, three months after the impact, but transmitted to Earth and processed only recently.
The image shows that the “struck” asteroid has acquired its own satellites. It’s surrounded by at least thirty rocky fragments of various sizes that broke away from the main body of Dimorph as a result of the targeted frontal impact.
The poor visibility makes it difficult to count the exact number of fragments: this is one of the faintest objects ever photographed by Hubble.
However, the European Space Observatory team has been able to determine the size of these space rocks with some accuracy. According to their data, the largest fragments are more than 6.5 meters in diameter, while the smallest are about 1 meter across.