Astronomers Teddy Kareta from Arizona's Lowell Observatory and Matthew Knight of the US Naval Academy used the 4.1-meter Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) Telescope in Chile to capture an image of the vast plume of debris that emerged from the asteroid two days after impact.
The kinetic impact that resulted from the spacecraft crashing into the asteroid caused dust particles and debris, ejecta, to emerge into space. Studying the ejecta allows scientists to learn about the effects of the impact, such as if the asteroid changed course and about the nature of the asteroid's surface.
"Now begins the next phase of work for the DART team as they analyze their data and observations by our team and other observers around the world who shared in studying this exciting event," said Knight. "We plan to use SOAR to monitor the ejecta in the coming weeks and months."
Although the first part of the mission, hitting the asteroid, was a success, the second part of the mission, observing the aftermath of the impact and seeing if the asteroid's path changed, is just as important to the mission's goal of preventing an asteroid from wiping out humankind in the future.
"You know, if you went up and you tried to move an asteroid to deflect it from hitting the Earth and it didn't move, that's not successful, right?" Carolyn Ernst, DART DRACO instrument scientist at Johns Hopkins APL, said to ZDNET.