Monday, September 26, 2022

Smashing Asteriods with DARTs

About thirty minutes from the time I started typing this, a spacecraft will purposely crash into another heavenly body for the sole purpose of redirecting its path.  The DART vehicle, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, will crash at about 4 miles per second into the asteroid Dimorphos, one of two asteroids in the Didymos double asteroid.  The goal is to practice hitting an asteroid in case we ever have to deflect one from hitting Earth.

The two dots, one visibly larger, grow slowly larger on the display from NASA.  The presentation seems a bit childish.  Maybe that's the target audience... Maybe I'm just a big kid.

Still, seems like keeping an extinction level event from occurring would be a more serious affair, even if it is just a test.   


Fourteen minutes to impact.  They're showing a pretty cool observatory where the signal from the DART craft is received.  A nerdy astronomer shows animated images taken from the craft, and explains that the smaller asteroid orbiting the larger will orbit in front of it before impact.  I find myself envying him, although I know there were many years of work involved in getting him to that place.

Ten minutes out.  Impact craters become visible on the larger dot.  It's shaped a bit like a Pac-Man ghost, or maybe a Dragon capsule.

Five minutes out and the asteroids are getting very large.  

Less than two minutes from impact, and the craft appears to be passing the first asteroid, headed for its impact with the second.  Craters are now resolving on the second.

The asteroid appears to be rapidly growing on the screen.  Seconds away from hitting it.

And with that, it's all over.  The last image, partially rendered, is frozen on the screen.  Kind of weird to be celebrating a crash.  

Hope they got some good science from it.  I'll admit, it was neat to watch it.