A new era’: NASA’s DART spaceship strikes asteroid in key test of planetary defense

NASA’s DART spaceship strikes asteroid in key test of planetary defense: We’re approaching a new era,” said Lori Glaze, head of NASA’s planetary science division, “one in which we potentially have the ability to shield ourselves from a really devastating asteroid strike.”

On Monday, NASA’s DART probe launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and collided with the asteroid Dimorphos. This was a historic test of mankind’ ability to prevent a cosmic object from killing life on Earth.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission smashed into an asteroid at 7:14 p.m. Eastern Time, 10 months after it departed California (23:14 GMT).

A new era': NASA's DART spaceship strikes asteroid in key test of planetary defense

NASA’s planetary research director, Lori Glaze, said, “In a new era, we could have the ability to safeguard ourselves from something like a really devastating asteroid strike.”

The 530-foot-tall (160-meter-tall) asteroid Dimorphos, which orbits a larger brother called Didymos, emerged as a small point of light about an hour before impact.

As DART approached it at about 23,500 miles per hour (14,500 km/h), its bread-bun form and rough surface became obvious.

The asteroids are in a “minimised” orbit around the Sun, which means they are seven million miles from Earth and pose no harm to our planet.

However, NASA has determined that the experiment must be carried out, whether or not it is required in the future.

NASA believes that colliding with Dimorphos will modify its orbit and reduce the time it takes to circle Didymos from 11 hours and 55 minutes to 11 hours and 50 minutes. This shift will be observable to Earth-based telescopes in the next days or weeks.

The proof-of-concept experiment will put to the test a premise hitherto only seen in science fiction films such as “Armageddon” and “Don’t Look Up.”

It’s a challenge from a technological standpoint:

LICIACube, a toaster-sized satellite, had already separated from DART a few weeks before the collision. It was scheduled to fly near to the disaster site in the minutes after the accident to photograph the impact and the ejecta, or broken rock flung out by the crash.

LICIACube photos should be available again in the next weeks and months.

Several ground-based and space-based telescopes, including the newly activated James Webb Space Telescope, are keeping a careful watch on the event in the hopes of capturing a glimpse of the brightening dust cloud.

The mission includes more than 30 optical, radio, and radar ground telescopes, which has piqued the interest of astronomers all around the globe.

“There are a lot of them,” said Christina Thomas, a planetary scientist on the DART mission, “and it’s nice that I’ve lost count.”

The European Space Agency’s Hera mission will arrive at Dimorphos in four years. To gain a complete view of the system, it will examine the planet’s surface and calculate its mass, which is now merely an estimate.

It is critical to have a plan:

We do not believe that any of our solar system’s billions of asteroids and comets will pose a danger to Earth in the next hundred or two hundred years.

But if you wait long enough, it will happen.

According to fossil records, a six-mile-wide meteor known as Chicxulub collided with Earth 66 million years ago. This resulted in global cooling, which wiped off the dinosaurs and 75% of all other life.

An asteroid the size of Dimorphos, on the other hand, would only have a little impact if it collided with a metropolis the size of one. This is true even though the impact force would be larger than any nuclear bomb ever created.

We don’t know yet if Dimorphos is solid rock or a “garbage heap” of pebbles kept together by gravity. As a result, we don’t know how much momentum DART will provide the asteroid.

NASA would have had a second opportunity in two years since the spacecraft had adequate fuel for another approach.

However, if it succeeds, it will be the first step toward a future civilization capable of defending itself against a danger to its own life.

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