NASA’s planetary defense spacecraft DART will crash into an asteroid this Monday. Here’s how to watch it live
NASA's DART mission will be a key test for planetary defense.
The DART spacecraft will smash into its target asteroid, Dimorphos, on Monday, September 26. It will carry out the very first test of the kinetic impact technique, which utilizes a spacecraft to deflect an asteroid's trajectory.
It will be another historic first for NASA, which will conduct the very first planetary defense test in space. If all goes to plan, the test will provide evidence that we can avert a hypothetical hazardous asteroid away from Earth with current technologies.
The DART spacecraft has already captured images of its target asteroid. Now, it has also captured a spectacular image of Jupiter and its four largest moons, NASA reveals in a blog post. These images are a crucial part of the DART team's pre-impact preparations.
NASA's DART spacecraft captures stunning Jupiter image
NASA says the DART spacecraft's imager, the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation (DRACO), has taken thousands of pictures of stars as it makes its way toward Dimorphos, the tiny moon of asteroid Didymos.
Those images weren't taken purely for observational reasons. NASA's DART mission team pointed the DRACO imager towards Jupiter on July 1 and August 2 to detect and target Jupiter's moon Europa as it emerged from behind Jupiter. This allowed the team to carry out a real-life assess DRACO's capacity to detect one large space object appearing from behind another, as will be the case with Dimorphos, which orbits Didymos.
“The Jupiter tests gave us the opportunity for DRACO to image something in our own solar system,” said Carolyn Ernst, DRACO instrument scientist at APL. “The images look fantastic, and we are excited for what DRACO will reveal about Didymos and Dimorphos in the hours and minutes leading up to impact!”
DRACO will help the spacecraft's autonomous guidance system to track the target asteroid up until the final moments before impact. Prior to the Jupiter imaging test, all tests of that type had only been carried out in simulations.
How to watch NASA's DART asteroid impact live
NASA will live stream the DART mission impact event. The space agency has announced live coverage of the impact will begin at 6 p.m. EDT on September 26. It will air on NASA TV, live streamed 24 hours a day on NASA's YouTube channel. We will also be sure to provide live updates here at IE before and after the impact, which is set to take place at 7:14 p.m. EDT.
Shortly after the impact, NASA will be able to tell if the trajectory of the asteroid Dimorphos was altered significantly. The agency will use Earth-based observatories to make the primary measurements. However, the DART spacecraft has also deployed a CubeSat developed by the Italian Space Agency, called LICIACube. The CubeSat will perform a flyby of Dimorphos after the impact and make observations, some of which may be included in NASA's subsequent press events.
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