Hubble and Webb team up to capture DART smashing into asteroid

30 Sep 2022

An image of NASA's DART collision with Dimorphos asteroid, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Image: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI

The two titan space telescopes have provided layers of useful information for scientists observing the impact, while NASA’s Juno took a flyby shot of Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Two famous space observatories teamed up for the first time to capture the result of NASA’s successful Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART).

The James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope took simultaneous observations of the collision as the DART spacecraft crashed into its target asteroid Dimorphos earlier this week.

Two images side by side, with Hubble's on the left and Webb's on the right. The images show the impact of NASA's DART spacecraft after it impacted an asteroid, with blue lighting on the left and red lighting on the right.

This is the first time the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope took simultaneous observations of the same target. Image: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI

The DART mission was an experiment to see if an asteroid’s path can be changed by crashing into it, using a technique known as kinetic impact. Both space telescopes observed the asteroid before and after the collision took place.

The different instruments in these space observatories provide layers of useful information for scientists observing the impact. The different wavelengths observed by Webb and Hubble will help scientists reveal the distribution of particle sizes in the expanding dust cloud.

Researchers plan to observe the Dimorphos asteroid in the coming months using Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) and its Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec). The spectroscopic data will give researchers an insight into the asteroid’s chemical composition.

Hubble, meanwhile, will monitor Dimorphos 10 more times over the next three weeks to monitor how the ejecta cloud expands and fades over time.

The bones of a spiral galaxy

Meanwhile, observations by Webb on a distant spiral galaxy show the differences between its own instruments and those of the Hubble telescope.

A detailed image of a spiral galaxy, with grey arms and red dots which are distant stars. The image was taken from the James Webb Space Telescope.

Image of the spiral galaxy IC 5332, taken by the James Webb Space Telescope with its MIRI instrument. Image: ESA/Webb/NASA/CSA/J Lee/PHANGS-JWST and PHANGS-HST Teams

Webb has revealed spectacular new images of the spiral galaxy IC 5332, located more than 29m light years from Earth. The European Space Agency said the galaxy is almost perfectly face on with respect to Earth, allowing us to admire the symmetrical sweep of its spiral arms.

The image reveals striking detail on the knots of gas that make up the spiral arms of the galaxy. This detail is juxtaposed by an image of the same galaxy taken by Hubble.

An image of a spiral galaxy, with a bright center and dusty spiral arms visible in the photo. Taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Image of the spiral galaxy IC 5332, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Image: ESA/Webb/NASA/CSA/J Lee/PHANGS-JWST and PHANGS-HST teams

The ESA said ultraviolet and visible light are far more prone to being scattered by interstellar dust than infrared light.

This means dusty regions can be identified easily in the Hubble image as the darker regions that much of the galaxy’s ultraviolet and visible light have not been able to travel through.

Different stars are visible in each image as certain stars shine better in ultraviolet, visible and infrared regimes. The two images complement each other as a result, showing scientists more about the galaxy’s structure and composition.

Juno flies past Europa

Elsewhere, NASA has shared new images from the Juno spacecraft, which were taken as it flew by Jupiter’s ice-encrusted moon Europa.

An image of the surface of a moon, with empty space visible on the right. Craters and dusty lines are visible on the moon's surface. The moon is Europa, with the image taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft.

Image of Europa, taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SWRI/MSSS

The complex surface of the moon was captured during a flyby yesterday (29 September), with Juno getting to a distance of around 352km at its closest approach.

NASA said this is only the third close pass in history and the closest look any spacecraft has provided at Europa in more than two decades. NASA’s Galileo space probe came within 351km of the surface on 3 January 2000.

“It’s very early in the process, but by all indications Juno’s flyby of Europa was a great success,” said Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton. “This first picture is just a glimpse of the remarkable new science to come from Juno’s entire suite of instruments and sensors that acquired data as we skimmed over the moon’s icy crust.”

Thanks to Juno’s observations, NASA said additional data about Europa’s geology will benefit future missions to the moon, which is the sixth largest in the solar system.

A bit closer to home, the International Space Station has provided a top-down view of Hurricane Ian as it made landfall near Florida this week.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic