DART’s primary objective was to test whether an asteroid’s trajectory could be changed, should one ever become a threat to Earth. The moment of truth occurred on Sept. 26, 2022.
The test resulted in DART, a 1,200-pound spacecraft about the size of a vending machine, successfully shifting the path of the asteroid after slamming into it 13,000 miles per hour.
A series of snapshots from Hubble shows three stages of this aftermath, according to NASA.
The first stage occurred about two hours after the collision. An image shows the formation of an ejecta cone, or debris material kicked up from the collision that forms a conical shape.
The second stage occurred about 17 hours after impact, NASA said. An image shows the shape of the ejecta cone being transformed into a spiral swirl due to the gravitational pull of a companion asteroid.
The third stage involves the debris being swept back into a comet-like tail. Caused by the pressure of sunlight, NASA described the debris shape as resembling a windsock caught in a breeze.
The DART mission was the first of its kind. According to NASA, no other mission was dedicated to investigating and demonstrating one method of asteroid deflection by changing an asteroid’s motion in space through kinetic impact.