Comments on the film Seen from Earth, the collision of the DART ship with the asteroid Dimorphos is breathtaking (VIDEO) Dr.  Crispin B

Comments on the film Seen from Earth, the collision of the DART ship with the asteroid Dimorphos is breathtaking (VIDEO) Dr. Crispin B

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Monday, September 26 was a historic moment for NASA and the world with the first asteroid deflection in the perspective of global planetary defense via the DART mission. All telescopes were then focused on this point in the sky and were able to record the impact live, like the ATLAS project. As NASA experts predicted, the video shows a wave of debris rising after the impact. DART’s accompanying camera also captured the collision, allowing the aftermath to be characterized over the next few days.

On September 26 at NASA, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) team, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, along with guests from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, all rejoiced at the confirmation of DART’s collision with asteroid Dimorphos, the world’s first demonstration of planetary defense technology.

During the spacecraft’s final moments, before impact, its reconnaissance camera and optical navigation imager captured four images capturing its terminal approach as Dimorphos increasingly filled the field of view.

Currently, the team is observing Dimorphos using ground-based telescopes to confirm that the DART impact changed the asteroid’s orbit around Didymos. Scientists expect the impact to shorten Dimorphos’ orbit by about 1%, or about 10 minutes.

That’s how astronomers from the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy (IfA) captured this moment of historic impact on Monday, September 26, thanks to the ATLAS project. Not to mention that the moment was also captured by a camera deployed by the spacecraft a few days before impact, LICIACub from the Italian space agency.

An even more effective asteroid impact early warning system

The Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), a joint project between NASA and the University of Hawaii, is a ground-based asteroid impact early warning system telescope. It consists of a system of four telescopes located in the Northern Hemisphere on the summit of Haleakalā and Maunaloa, and in the Southern Hemisphere in South Africa and Chile.

In addition, the ATLAS telescope in South Africa compiled images of the impact available at Twitter. Larry Denneau, IfA astronomer, ATLAS co-investigator, explains va communicated : ” The ATLAS telescope system was well positioned to observe the impact from Earth, and we were fortunate to have excellent weather conditions at the ATLAS telescope in Sutherland, South Africa. “.

Images taken by ATLAS every 40 seconds from the moment of impact show the dust cloud after the collision with Dimorphos. © IfA

It should be noted that the ATLAS system can provide a warning one day before the impact of an asteroid with a diameter of 20 meters, which is capable of destroying on a city scale. Since larger asteroids can be detected at greater distances, ATLAS can provide up to three weeks’ warning of a 100-meter asteroid capable of regional devastation. But it can only prevent… It is therefore necessary to supplement it with the implementation of real actions, such as the DART mission here.

John Tonry, IfA professor and ATLAS principal investigator, explains that according to the latest data, the spacecraft impact was “ strong enough to reduce its 12-hour orbital period by about 5 minutes. Therefore, the eclipses that we can observe from Earth will occur earlier and earlier, and after a week or two we will have a very good measure of how much Dimorphos will recede after the DART hit. “.

As a result, the data collected by all the observing systems will make it possible to plan a potential mission to deflect a dangerous asteroid, knowing: ” what time it should be hit, what the weight of the spacecraft should be, how fast it should be moving “.

Another sighting from Hawaii

Additional images of the impact were taken atop Mauna Kea by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (Optical/Infrared). Mauna Kea is a 4,200 meter high dormant volcano on the island of Hawaii, home to 12 Mauna Kea observatories. The CFH telescope was commissioned in 1979. CFHT’s mission is to provide the user community with a state-of-the-art, versatile astronomical observing facility.

That’s why IfA astronomer Richard Wainscoat and University of Western Ontario astronomer Robert Weryk obtained images of the dust plume about 13 hours after the DART probe hit Dimorphos. Weryk says: The scale and structure of the dust surprised me. I expected it to be on a much smaller scale “.

impact manoa with arrows
Image of the dust cloud from the DART impact taken by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. © CFHT

Over the next two months, IfA astronomers will work with students to study the orbit of Dimorphos using the UH 88 telescope on Mauna Kea and the Faulkes North telescope on Haleakalā, one of the many observatories that are part of the Las Cumbres telescope network.

This Las Cumbres network is truly a global distribution of telescopes that rely on an artificial intelligence called a “planner”. OCH’s intranet scheduler operates without human intervention and receives observation requests from scientists, analyzes everything from requirements and competitive conditions at each telescope site, directs individual telescopes to make the required observations, and compiles the results. Scientists can submit observation requests at any time, as the scheduler updates the entire network plan approximately every 5 minutes.

Unprecedented observation of space

In addition, new images taken by the DART spacecraft’s companion satellite, LICIACube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids) provided by the Italian Space Agency, reveal the impact from a different angle, from space.

He embarked from the vessel on 9/11 and traveled behind it to record the event from a safe distance of approximately 55 kilometers. Three minutes after impact, the CubeSat flew over Dimorphos to take pictures. A series of images shows the shiny material released from the surface of Dimorphos after the collision. Didymos is in the foreground.

Image taken by LICIACube minutes after NASA’s DART mission intentionally collided with target asteroid Dimorphos on September 26, 2022. © ASI/NASA

In conclusion, NASA’s DART mission has confirmed that the space agency can successfully direct a spacecraft to deliberately collide with an asteroid and deflect it from its current orbit. Future planetary defense strategies will be able to rely on an efficient network of telescopes to alert and enable the launch of such a deflection mission. As a NASA presenter said on the agency’s live broadcast, we can conclude: Humanity one, asteroid zero “.

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