Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (65803) Didymos and its tail: a image – 1 Nov. 2022

More than one month after the Nasa’s DART mission slammed into Didymos‘ moonlet Dimorphos, we observed this binary asteroid, imaging the thin dusty tail it developed as a consequence of the impact.

Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (65803) Didymos and its tail: 1 Nov. 2022.

Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (65803) Didymos and its tail: 1 Nov. 2022.

The image above comes from the average of nine, 180-second exposures, unfiltered, remotely collected with the “Elena” (PlaneWave 17″+Paramount ME+SBIG STL-6303E) robotic unit available at the Virtual Telescope Project. The telescope tracked the apparent motion of (65803) Didymos, this is why stars left trails on the background.

A thin, dusty tail is still visible, at least 2 arc-mins long: it was detected soon after Nasa’s DART probe slammed into Dimorphos, the small Didymos’ satellite. At the impact time, the binary asteroid immediately developed a huge cloud of debris, also increasing its brightness significantly. The impact was monitored on-site by the LICIACube satellite by Agenzia Spaziale Italiana.

It is interesting to compare this tail feature with the natural ones developed by asteroids (248370)/433P  and (6478) Gault: they look very similar, supporting the idea those natural ones were triggered by collisions.

Nasa’s DART mission tested an important planetary defense technique, that is asteroid deflection by kinetic impactor. The idea was to change the orbit of Dimorphos around the primary object, Didymos. Observations showed this test was a great success, as the orbit of Dimorphos is now completed 32 minutes earlier than before impact.

Weather permitting, we will keep an eye on this interesting object.

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