The Italian Space Agency’s cubesat, dubbed LICIACube, was released as the DART spacecraft neared its asteroid target. The tiny companion satellite captured spectacular images of the change in Dimorphos’ brightness as the DART probe smacked into the space rock’s surface, creating a plume of ejected material.
Argotec, the Turin-based engineering firm that built LICIACube, tweeted Tuesday: “This is exactly where the #NASA #DartMission ended. An incredible emotion, the beginning of new discoveries.”
A few minutes after the cosmic spectacle, LICIACube flew within 35 miles of Dimorphos, snapping photos of the outcome. The first photos were beamed back to Earth at 4:23 a.m. local time in Italy, according to the Italian Space Agency.
NASA confirmed Monday that the DART mission was a success, but it may take up to several weeks to monitor for changes in the asteroid’s trajectory. The goal was to shave several minutes off Dimorphos’ nearly 12-hour orbit around Didymos.