DART mission: James Webb telescope will attempt to monitor collisions

DART mission: James Webb telescope will attempt to monitor collisions

NASA, as part of its mission DART, is preparing for a collision with an asteroid to alter its trajectory. The strike is scheduled for Monday. For this event, the United States Agency is using three spacecraft, including Hubble and the James Webb telescope, to try to capture the event.

The DART mission is designed to test the planetary defense method known as the "kinetic strike." The principle is simple. It involves an impact on an object with sufficient force to alter its trajectory. NASA has selected a pair of asteroids consisting of a major stone around which a smaller object revolves. The idea is to encounter a smaller satellite to change its orbit around a larger asteroid.

Notice that none of the asteroids threaten Earth. NASA simply wants to test this approach to see how effective it will be in the event of possible collisions with other larger objects.

The impact of the DART mission is scheduled for Monday, 26 September, and the mission team will receive images of the event only three minutes after the crash, thanks to the small LICIA Cube satellite deployed earlier this month by the DART spacecraft. The European Space Agency will also send a separate Hera mission to study impact in 2027.

These two reviews should provide NASA with sufficient data to assess the effectiveness of its mission, but a pleasant bonus would be the view of the event from the space telescope, which NASA knows and will use for that purpose the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Telescope and the Lucy Mission spacecraft.

The quality of these space observations is not known, especially since none of these devices are designed to carry out such monitoring; these asteroids are closer and much faster than the distant galaxies analysed by JWT or Hubble, so researchers will observe them, but do not expect anything extraordinary.

Another problem for JWS is that it must regularly check the position of the stars for re-assembly, which means that its observations can begin only a few minutes after the impact. The Hubble, which will be on the other side of the Earth at the time of the collision, will also be able to observe these two asteroids only about 15 minutes after the impact.

With regard to Lucy, this probe was launched last year to study Trojan asteroids, and it is still close to Earth to benefit from gravitational assistance next month, and again, astronomers are not sure what to expect, but we can use its presence nearby to perpetuate this event.

Whatever the quality of these observations, the others will be able to enjoy their results without getting off the couch, and NASA will be offering live video coverage of images transmitted from the spacecraft just before it hits the asteroid.