DART: Watch the Asteroid Impact

Image (Credit): Artist’s rendering of NASA’s DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube prior to impact at the Didymos binary system. (NASA)

The Americans and Italians are putting on a show tomorrow night. NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft is ready to strike Dimorphos, which is a moonlet to the asteroid Didymos. All of it should be captured by Italy’s Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids (LICIACub) in addition to DART’s own camera called the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation (DRACO). Are you overwhelmed with acronyms yet?

The mission is a practice run on diverting an asteroid. While we are not threatened by this pair of asteroids, we may be threatened by others in the future, so what we learn here is critical.

You can view the impact later tomorrow via this NASA site starting at 6pm ET (the collision is expected at 7:14pm ET).

Extra: Here is another DART site to watch from The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Image (Credit): NASA live broadcast for the DART mission. (NASA)

Update: The mission was a success. The video showing the DART spacecraft approaching the dirty potato called Dimorphos was impressive. The actual moonlet shown below is considerably different than the smooth asteroid in the artist’s rendering above.

Image (Credit): Moonlet Dimorphos as the DART spacecraft approaches. (NASA)