Space

DART will impact an asteroid on September 26

DART: Two rocky objects and two spacecraft.
Artist’s concept of NASA’s DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube prior to impact at the Didymos binary system. Image via NASA/ Johns Hopkins APL/ Steve Gribben.

NASA released viewing times this week (August 23, 2022) for the upcoming impact of DART – the Double Asteroid Redirect Test – with the asteroid Didymos B. The impact will happen at 7:15 p.m. EDT (23:15 UTC) on September 26, 2022. Launched in late 2021, DART is NASA’s first planetary defense test mission. It’s the first real test of our ability to defend Earth from an asteroid on a collision course with our world. For this test, DART is targeting Didymos B – aka Dimorphos – a moonlet of the asteroid Didymos. The little moonlet is just 525 feet (160 m) in diameter, and NASA hopes that the nudge from DART will push it slightly from its regular orbit. This test will show if we’re ready to take on any threatening asteroids that could be headed our way.

Coverage of the event will begin at 6 p.m. EDT (22 UTC) on September 26, 2022, on NASA’s website. You can also watch it via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The DART mission is only a test

Didymos B poses no threat to Earth. This little moonlet and its parent asteroid orbit the sun in an elliptical path that brings them close to Earth and then out past the orbit of Mars. Didymos B is the size of a typical asteroid that might threaten Earth. If DART is successful, it will be the world’s first test of technology to defend Earth against threats of an asteroid on a collision path with our world. As NASA said:

This test will show a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and intentionally collide with it to change the asteroid’s motion in a way that can be measured using ground-based telescopes. DART will provide important data to help better prepare for an asteroid that might pose an impact hazard to Earth, should one ever be discovered.

When the impact occurs, Italy’s LICIACube will be watching. The LICIACube – or the Light Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroids – is part of the DART mission and will separate about 10 days before impact. The little spacecraft will be studying the impact plume, measuring the impact site and observing the non-impacted hemisphere as well.

You can learn much more about the DART mission, Didymos B, and any meteors that might result from the impact here.

Bottom line: The DART mission to impact and move an asteroid for the first time will occur on September 26, 2022, at 7:14 p.m. EDT.

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