Monday, December 05, 2022

NASA will hit an asteroid this September, position is right on target

The orbit of the double asteroid Didymos is being observed by NASA for the past few days. From these observations, the asteroid-destroyer Dart spacecraft is said to be in alignment or on target.

Earlier observations by the Lowell Discovery Telescope in Arizona and the Magellan Telescope in Chile in early July confirmed previous orbit calculations from 2021.

New data comes as the Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) spacecraft races to collide with a small rock, called Dimorphos.

It also aims to test potential techniques for deflecting asteroids that are predicted to threaten Earth, which Didymos and Dimorphos did not.

Andy Rivkin, chair of the DART investigation team at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics, said, “The measurements the team took in early 2021 were critical to ensuring that DART arrived in the right place and corrected for the dynamic effect of dimorphos. Arrived on time.” Laboratory in Maryland.

According to him, these measurements along with the new observations show that his party does not need to change direction and is on target.

Didymos and its moon Dimorphos will make their closest approach to Earth in late September, at a distance of about 6.7 million miles (10.8 million kilometers) from the planet.

Meanwhile, on September 26, the Dart spacecraft will collide with the 560-foot-wide (170 m) Dimorphos.

The move is an attempt to change its orbit around Didymos which is 0.5 miles (780 meters) wide. Experiment.

The first attempt to alter an asteroid’s orbit could pave the way for future planetary defense missions if the asteroid ever threatens Earth.

Scientists need detailed orbital parameters of the two space rocks, not just those to reliably guide Dart to its target.

After the collision, astronomers around the world will re-measure the asteroid’s orbit to see how fast Dimorphos orbits after the impact.

“We don’t want to say at the last minute, ‘Oh, that’s something we haven’t thought about or considered such an event.’ We want to make sure that any changes we see are entirely due to the actions of DART,” explains Nick Moskovitz, an astronomer at Lowell Observatory in Arizona and co-lead of the observing campaign last July.

According to scientists, in addition to obvious forces, such as the gravitational pull of a large object, the asteroid’s orbit may be affected by more subtle phenomena such as solar radiation pressure.

Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos is expected to decrease for a few minutes after impact, as the Moon moves closer to the larger asteroid.

By measuring the changes with maximum accuracy, astronomers will be able to gather important information about the structure of dimorphos and the properties of the materials from which it is made.

A recent measurement campaign determined the duration of Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos by observing the change in brightness that occurs when one asteroid passes in front of another.

However, it is difficult to make adequate observations, as sky-viewing conditions are unfavorable at this time of year because the shorter summer nights coincide with Arizona’s rainy season, the researchers said.

Earlier this year, the asteroid was too far from Earth to be seen.

“It’s a difficult time of year to get these comments,” Moskovitz said.

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