How To Watch The DART Mission Impact

26th Sep 2022
How To Watch The DART Mission Impact

NASA’s asteroid-banging DART spacecraft will slam into its target (we hope) at about 23.14 UTC on 26th September. Here’s how to watch it and why this is an important mission.

As we reported previously, the DART mission’s spacecraft is aimed at hitting a body in space called Dimorphus. This 150m wide space rock is orbiting a near-Earth asteroid called Didymos. The pair of bodies posed no threat to Earth, but their proximity to our planet make them a useful proving ground for the ability to affect the orbit of an asteroid.

Observing the DART impact from space

First, don’t expect 8K live video of the event. A variety of instruments will be observing the impact, including the James Webb telescope. The European Space Agency, for one, sent LICIACUBE to observe the impact. LICIACUBE, which was built by the Italian Space Agency, has two cameras on it. The first, a narrow-field camera, will take high resolution photos of the impact and its immediate aftermath. The second, a wide-field camera, will provide RGB images of the asteroid’s environment.

Earthbound observations

On Earth, there is the possibility to point a device toward the impact if you’re in an area approximately encompassing sub-Saharan Africa, the southern half of the Arabian Peninsula, or the southern half of India, or thereabouts. Even then, the possibility of detecting anything at all is far beyond the range of amateur imagery.

NASA does not know exactly what to expect as a result of the impact. Along with the hoped-for nudge in Dimorphos’ orbit, DART should raise a plume of material. The DART team expects Dimporhos to get brighter for a while because of the plume. This brightening could range from 1-4 orders of magnitude, depending on the amount of material raised by the impact. This alone will tell a lot about the composition of Dimmorphos, but the cameras on LICIACUBE will give us the best clue.

Your best bet for finding out what happens at impact? We’ll be glued to NASA TV ourselves.

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