Space telescopes will watch as DART hits the target

On September 26, the DART spacecraft will crash into the Dimorphos asteroid as part of an experiment to change its orbit. This will be observed by the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes and some spacecraft.

Asteroids Didymos and Dimorphos. Source: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

DART collision with an asteroid

On Monday, September 26, the space probe Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will crash into the asteroid Dimorphos, which is a moon of the slightly larger asteroid Didymos. This mission was launched in November 2021 to test how effectively it is possible to change the trajectory of space objects by colliding with spacecraft.

This is done to deploy a future system of distraction from the course of asteroids threatening the earth with a collision. The dual Didymos-Dimorphos system does not apply to them, but it is quite convenient to evaluate the effectiveness of such measures using it.

It is known that NASA will conduct a special broadcast of this event. It is likely that the Gecko camera installed on the DART probe will also take part in it. It was developed by Dragonfly, a company founded by Ukrainian Max Poliakov. In addition, various spacecraft will monitor the collision.

Hubble and James Webb will see DART collide with an asteroid

NASA is going to involve its Hubble and James Webb space telescopes in observing the collision of DART with an asteroid. At the same time, it should be remembered that the Didymos-Dimorphos system will be at this moment at a distance of 11 million km from Earth. And this is a lot from a certain point of view, but from another point of view it is not enough.

The most modern James Webb Space Telescope will try to track the event from beginning to end. But it’s just not designed to follow moving objects at such a short distance. It will be a little difficult for it to follow the collision.

In addition, James Webb from time to time needs to be guided to the reference stars to check its position in space. Therefore, it can simply skip the very moment of the collision. But even tracking what happens a few seconds after that will be interesting.

The old Hubble telescope has no problems with aiming at such close targets. But at the moment when DART hits the target, it will be on the other side of the Earth and will start monitoring 15 minutes after the incident.

Other observers

In addition, two more spacecraft will observe the collision directly. A tiny LICIA Cube, which DART left not far from the Didymos-Dimorphos system, will follow it closely. Images from it are expected to be received three minutes after the impact.

And from a distance twice as large as between asteroids and the Earth, the Lucy device will monitor the collision. It was launched in October 2021 to observe the Trojan asteroids of Jupiter. However, it still makes maneuvers near the Earth in order to gain sufficient speed.

Finally, in 2026, the European Space Agency will send a Hera mission to the Didymos-Dimorphos pair to see up close what the collision led to.

According to

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