NASA will soon be giving an update following its successful DART asteroid impact on Sept. 26th.
On Tuesday, October 11, members of the mission team will speak from the Webb Auditorium of NASA Headquarters Mary W. Jackson building at 2 p.m. The briefing will give in-depth information on the administration’s first-ever attempt to collide with an asteroid with the hopes of knocking it off course.
Scientists created DART—which is short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test—technology to prepare for future deep-impact threats on Earth. And while the targeted space rock isn’t risking life on this planet, it did help prove that NASA may be able to save us if a giant asteroid ever comes hurtling our way.
“This is something that you would do five, 10, 15, 20 years in advance — gently nudge the asteroid so it just sails merrily on its way and doesn’t impact the Earth,” team member Nancy Chabot said in 2019.
The asteroid targetted in the mission was dubbed Dimorphous, which is floating about 6.8 million miles away from Earth. The rock measures 525 feet across and orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos.
The $325 million dollar mission launched on Nov. 23, 2021. And when the probe reached its target 10 months later, its DRACO camera transmitted the entire event back to NASA headquarters, which exploded in cheers.
“We are showing that planetary defense is a global endeavor and it is very possible to save our planet,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at the time.
NASA Will Soon Share if DART Shortened the Asteroid’s Orbit
The administration later released an image of the impact that shows a stunning burst of light in the black expanse of space that the Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope—or SOAR—took from Earth. The picture shows a light trail that stretches 6,214 miles from the impact spot. The sun’s radiation pressure pushes the light out into the visible trail, according to CNN.
SOAR captured the image two days after the successful mission.
“It is amazing how clearly we were able to capture the structure and extent of the aftermath in the days following the impact,” astronomer Teddy Kareta at Arizona’s Lowell Observatory said.
In the days following the crash, NASA has been busy analyzing data to determine if everything worked exactly as planned. The team already knows that Dimorphous changed course, but it has yet to announce if the asteroid’s orbits shortened as well.
Dimorphous originally clocked a 12-hour orbit around Didymos. And NASA hopes to have shortened that orbit by several minutes.