NASA’s DART spacecraft will be slammed into an asteroid that is the size of a great Egyptian pyramid.
The DART mission or Double Asteroid Redirection Test is human’s first attempt to purposefully move an asteroid off its course.
The targeted space rock is called Dimorphos which isn’t a threat to Earth, but an source of experiment to see how humans can intentionally change the course of an asteroid that’s on a collision course with our planet in the future.
The DART mission is worth about US$330 million and if everything go well, it could be a way by which we’d be able to protect our planet in the near future.
“We are right now defenseless against any asteroid aiming for Earth,” Markus Wilde, an associate professor of aerospace, physics, and space sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology, told Mashable.
As of the morning of Sept. 26, the mission was on track for impact.
It’s the final cosmic collision countdown. ☄️⌛— Johns Hopkins APL (@JHUAPL) September 26, 2022
Today the #DARTMission will make history when it becomes world’s first full-scale #PlanetaryDefense test.
📺 Live coverage at 6 p.m. EDT
💥 Impact at 7:14 p.m. EDT
🔗 https://t.co/0YPTJKV2Rl@AsteroidWatch @NASASolarSystem pic.twitter.com/XdE4lZ3TH2
How to watch the DART impact?
Dimorphos the asteroid is a 525-foot-wide asteroid that orbits an even larger asteroid which is about half-mile-wide called Didymos.
However, DART the spacecraft is about 1,300 pounds and the site of impact is about 6.8 million miles away from Earth.
DART is fitted with a camera called DRACO which will stream one image per second back to Earth in real time until impact.
This will give NASA observers all the information needed to know about the impact as well as its efficacy.
The event will begin this this evening Sept. 26, 2022, at 6 p.m. ET. The spacecraft will impact Dimorphos at 7:14 p.m. ET.
Alternatively: If you’d like to just watch the “quiet” real-time feed from the DART camera, without the NASA presentation or explanation, you can tune into the NASA Live YouTube channel beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET.
What will happen after the impact?
Considering the huge size of the asteroid relative to DART spacecraft, the impact will be like a tiny smack.
Even though nothing may seem significant, the goal is to show that such a collision can slightly move an asteroid from its ultimate trajectory.
If this works, Dimorphos will slow down its orbit around its sibling asteroid by about 10 minutes (the orbit currently takes about 12 hours).
“That’s enough time to make sure it misses Earth,” Andrew Rivkin, a planetary astronomer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and one of DART’s lead scientists, told Mashable.
As small as the collision is, NASA officials say the impact will lead to some 220,000 pounds of rocks being shattered into space.
We’ll in fact be able to see this too even though it might be immediate. DART also recently released a toaster-sized spacecraft called LICIACube which has two cameras that will be used to observe both the impact and its aftermath.
That footage will arrive in the days and weeks after the impact.