A NASA spacecraft will soon make history when it crashes into an asteroid in the world’s first planetary defense test.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test or DART asteroid missiona spaceship will crash into the tiny moon of the asteroid Didymos Monday, Sept 26with the effect set to 7:14 p.m. EDT (2314 GMT). If all goes well, the spacecraft will hit the moon called Dimorphos and take pictures up to the moment of impact. You can see these images live Real time. Read on for a handy guide to when everything will happen.
But first some science. NASA’s DART mission launched almost a year ago, on November 9, 2021, to test the use of a “kinetic impactor” to change the orbit of a asteroid – the first planetary defense test of its kind.
DART’s target Dimorphos is about 170 meters across and orbits its larger predecessor Didymos once every 11 hours and 55 minutes. The asteroids are about 7 million miles (9.6 million kilometers) from Earth and pose no risk of hitting our planet, NASA said. DART should hit Dimorphos while traveling at approximately 14,760 mph (23,760 km/h). This is what the last day of DART will look like.
Sunday, Sept. 25: One day until the DART asteroid impact
While setting the stage for NASA’s DART asteroid impact its launch in 2021, the space rock action is starting to get really hot in the last 24 hours. Then DART will perform its final maneuver to put it on course for a Didymos impact.
“After the last maneuver on September 25, approximately 24 hours before impact, the navigation team will know the position of the target dimorphos within 2 kilometers [1.2 miles],” NASA officials wrote in a expression (opens in new tab). “From there, DART will self-guide to its collision with the asteroid moon.”
Monday, Sept. 26: 4 p.m. ET – DART Finals begins
Approximately four hours before impact, the DART spacecraft will enter what mission scientists call the “final phase.” The spacecraft’s DRACO camera should be aimed at the asteroid Didymos, searching for its moon Dimorphos.
“At this point, after four hours, we’re actually targeting Didymos because we can’t see Dimorphos,” said Evan Smith, DART’s assistant mission systems engineer at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) in Laurel, Maryland.
During the terminal phase, DART’s air traffic controllers will no longer issue ground commands. The spacecraft will aim fully autonomously with its intelligent navigation system, Smith said.
Monday, Sept. 26: 5:30 p.m. ET – DART asteroid camera views
At 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT), NASA will begin broadcasting a real-time stream of photos from DART’s Draco camera. This is the camera that will show the asteroids Didymos and Dimorphos as they grow larger in DART’s field of view.
“In the hours before impact, the screen appears mostly black with a single point of light. This point is the Didymos binary asteroid system, composed of a larger asteroid called Didymos and a smaller asteroid called Dimorphos orbiting it,” NASA wrote in a video description (opens in new tab).
The images in this stream are slightly delayed due to the time it takes for the signal to reach Earth from DART at a distance of 7 million miles (11 million km) and then processed on the ground. NASA has already published a view of Didymos from DARTas well as a View of Jupiter and its moons.
“After impact, the feed goes black – due to signal loss. After about 2 minutes, this stream becomes a replay – showing the final moments before impact,” NASA wrote.
Monday, Sept. 26: 6 p.m. ET – NASA DART webcast begins
NASA’s live webcast of the DART asteroid impact begins Monday at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT).
NASA has said it’s this stream that will have the raw, most up-to-date images of the asteroid impact as it happens. The webcast will be conducted from JHUAPL, which is monitoring the mission OUR.
Sept. 26: 6:24 p.m. ET – 50 minutes before impact
About 50 minutes before DART encounters Dimorphos, the spacecraft should finally shift its target to the smaller moon.
“50 minutes before impact we will have seen Dimorphos for maybe 40 minutes,” Smith said, adding that both the small moon and its parent Didymos should be in view of the spacecraft’s camera. “Both objects will still be in view, but we’ll be heading straight for Dimorphos and impacting there.”
Sept 26: 6:54pm ET – DART precision lock on Dimorphos
At 18:54 EDT (2254 GMT), DART will be just 20 minutes away from colliding with Dimorphos and its intelligent navigation system will enter what is known as “precision lock”.
“20 minutes before impact we go to what’s called a precision lock where we completely ignore Didymos and go straight for Dimorphos,” Smith said. “We expect to bump quite a bit during this time.”
Sept 26: 19:11 EDT – DART is shutting down its engines
Just after 7:11 p.m. EDT (2311 GMT), DART shuts down its ion engines and prepares for the inevitable. The spacecraft will then be on course to impact Dimorphos at 14,760 mph (23,760 km/h).
“With two and a half minutes before impact, we’ll cut off all thrust and roll in,” Smith said. “We’ll be streaming images all the time.”
Sept 26: 7:14pm ET – DART hits asteroid Dimorphos
This is it, the big moment! When DART hits the mark, the live views of Dimorphos from the DRACO camera are cropped.
Elena Adams, Lead Mission Systems Engineer for DART at JHUAPL, said there is a 91% to 99% chance of a successful impact if DART’s cameras can detect Dimorphos.
The impact should kick up a huge ejecta cloud that a small cube called LICIACube should see. The Cubesat ran DART during launch and was ejected a few weeks ago.
Sept 26: 7:17pm ET – LICIACube flies past Dimorphos
Three minutes after DART impacts, Dimorphos LICIACube should fly past the impact site.
LICIACube will take photos of the resulting ejection plume created by the DART crash and then send them back to Earth. The images are expected to be released on 9/28 as the small CubeSat will take some time to beam them back, NASA said.
LICIACube (short for “Light Italian Cubesat for Imaging Asteroids”) was built by the Italian Space Agency and was published by DART on 11/9.
“We expect to receive the first full-frame images and process them a few days after the DART impact,” said Simone Pirrotta, LICIACube project manager for the Italian Space Agency, in a expression (opens in new tab).
Sept. 26: 8 p.m. ET – NASA DART post-impact briefing
At 8 p.m. EDT (0000 GMT on September 27), NASA will hold a press conference to discuss the impact of the DART asteroid.
While we don’t have a list of who attended the press conference, rest assured it will be filled with mission managers and JHUAPL and NASA officials hoping to celebrate the success of DART. The press conference will be broadcast live on NASA television.
You can view the press briefing on our website DART webcasts on asteroid impact Side.
And that’s a look at when DART will crash into the asteroid Dimorphos and how the day will play out.
Visit Space.com on Monday 09/09/26 for full coverage of NASA’s DART asteroid mission.
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