NASA has pulled off a world's first by successfully colliding a man-made spacecraft into a distant asteroid with the goal of altering its orbit.
NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) recently struck the binary asteroid system Didymos-Dimorphos, located approximately seven million miles from Earth. The DART spacecraft impacted the smaller of the two asteroids, Dimorphos, which orbits its larger companion asteroid, Didymos. NASA's goal was to prove that a spacecraft approximately the size of a vending machine, when traveling at extremely high speeds, is capable of changing the orbit of an asteroid - the world's first planetary defense demonstration.
Astronomers on Earth gazed up at the asteroid system on the day of the impact, looking for any changes in the asteroid. Italian astronomer Gianluca Masi live-streamed his observations via the Virtual Telescope project, which showcased Dimorphos gaining in brightness following the impact of the DART spacecraft. The above GIF showcases the increasing brightness, which, according to Masi, completely exceeded his expectations for the event.