How a group of amateur astronomers captured a NASA spacecraft crashing into an asteroid

Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Last September, the world watched in delight as NASA deliberately crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid in a test of planetary defense. The idea of the DART mission was to see whether an impact from a spacecraft could change the trajectory of an incoming asteroid in case such a looming disaster ever threatened the Earth.

The impact and its aftermath were observed by telescopes all across the planet and by several in space, including the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes, and preliminary data showed that the test had been successful in changing the orbit of this asteroid. Then scientists got to work analyzing all the data they had collected for more insights.

This week, five new papers in the journal Nature reveal more about what…

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