Thursday, February 2

The DART mission will immolate tonight against the asteroid Dimorphos: how to see it live


Tonight, or rather in the early hours of tomorrow, the DART probe will complete the first phase of the mission. It will also be the last phase of the spacecraft, as it will blow itself up against the asteroid Dimorphos in an attempt to deflect its orbital path. The impact will be recorded from up close by the LICIACube instrument and we will be able to access its visual chronicle.


Suicide mission.
With the objective already set for a few days, the main probe of the DART mission is now approaching the Dimorphos asteroid, the smallest of the elements that make up the Didymos asteroid system. If all goes according to plan, the impact will occur at 1:14 a.m., peninsular time.

DART will hit Dimorphos with the aim of deflecting it from its orbit. The frontal impact will slightly slow down the asteroid. In orbital terms, this implies that the orbit that Dimorphos traces around Didymos will become smaller, thus bringing these two bodies closer together. This is possible despite the difference in size between DART and the asteroid thanks to the enormous speed (6.1 kilometers per second) at which the collision will occur.

A little push.
Not much, the objective of this mission is not to substantially change the path of the asteroid but to give it a little push to study the effect of the impact and thereby be able to design missions capable of diverting asteroids from their path. And it is that DART is, ultimately, a mission to test the defense of our planet against a potential threat in the form of an asteroid that could impact the Earth.

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How to watch it live
The DART mission spacecraft have multiple cameras that will transmit visual data to control centers. DRACO (Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation) is the name given to the instrument on board the main DART probe. It is a double instrument: camera and navigation system.

NASA will broadcast live the images that arrive from one of these cameras, the one that goes on board the main DART probe. Due to the distance at which the impact will occur, the images will arrive 38 seconds late to Earth.

It can be seen both through the NASA website and through YouTube. The broadcast will begin half an hour before midnight (UTC+2) with full coverage scheduled to begin at midnight. A preliminary assessment of the mission will be broadcast starting at 2:00 a.m.

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In the middle ground.
The asteroid Dimorphos has been chosen as the target of the DART mission, among other reasons, because of its size. Space agencies have managed in recent years to complete a fairly exhaustive catalog of the large asteroids that orbit in our space neighborhood.

With asteroids capable of causing apocalyptic events under control, the concern of experts is focused on those capable of causing, not a cataclysm on a planetary scale, but local devastation. Those capable of destroying cities, regions or small countries.

This corresponds to asteroids between 140 and one kilometer in diameter. In this case we barely have control of half of the elements of these characteristics that surround us.

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How to watch it live
The DART mission spacecraft have multiple cameras that will transmit visual data to control centers. DRACO (Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation) is the name given to the instrument on board the main DART probe. It is a double instrument: camera and navigation system.

NASA will broadcast live the images that arrive from one of these cameras, the one that goes on board the main DART probe. Due to the distance at which the impact will occur, the images will arrive 38 seconds late to Earth.

It can be seen both through the NASA website and through YouTube. The broadcast will begin half an hour before midnight (UTC+2) with full coverage scheduled to begin at midnight. A preliminary assessment of the mission will be broadcast starting at 2:00 a.m.

LICIACube.
From the control post, the encounter will also be followed from the LICIACube instrument, which has two cameras from which to control the impact. In conjunction with other observatories on Earth, the cameras on this companion probe will observe the effects of the impact, the plume of smoke it will kick up, and the crater it leaves behind.

LICIACube, a probe that has been sailing through space for a few days, separated from its “mothership” DART, is one of the European contributions to this project. The information collected by this instrument will help to better determine what Dimorphos is like, an asteroid about which, deep down, we know very little.

The sequel.
The data collected from telescopes on Earth and from LICIACube will not be the end of the story. A European Space Agency (ESA) mission is scheduled to reach Dimorphos in four years. Hera will be in charge of complementing the data collected by LICIACube.

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Hera will depart Earth in October 2024 on a two-year journey to the Didymos system. Hera will consist of two small satellites (cubesats) that will analyze the crater left behind by the DART impact.

These satellites will also send us visual information on the orographic consequences of the impact expected for today. However, perhaps the most ambitious part of this mission will be carried out by Juventas (one of the probes of this mission), which will explore the interior of the asteroid using radar.

Image | POT

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