The exciting collision of the DART spacecraft with the Dimorphos asteroid is seen from Earth

The exciting collision of the DART spacecraft with the Dimorphos asteroid is seen from Earth

Monday, 26 September, was a historic moment for NASA and the world, when the DART mission rejected the first asteroid for global planetary defence, and all telescopes were focused on this point in the sky and were able to record the impact live, like the ATLAS project. As NASA experts had suggested, the video showed that a wave of debris was rising after the impact. The DART camera also recorded the impact, which would allow the impact to be described in the coming days.

On September 26, at NASA, a team of double-altitude testers, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, and guests from the University of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, caught a wave of joy when they received confirmation of DART's collision with the Dimorphos asteroid.

In the last moments before the spacecraft crashed, its reconnaissance camera and optical navigation analyser took four images of its final convergence as Dimorphos increasingly filled the field of vision.

The team is currently monitoring Dimorphos using ground telescopes to confirm that DART's impact has changed the orbit of the asteroid around Didimos, and researchers expect the impact to reduce Dimorphos' orbit by about 1%, or about 10 minutes.

Astronomers from the Institute of Astronomy of the University of Hawaii captured this historic collision moment on Monday, 26 September, thanks to the ATLAS project. In addition, the camera deployed by the spacecraft a few days before the crash, LICIACUB of the Italian Space Agency, was also able to capture that moment.

Even more effective early warning system for asteroid impact

The NASA-Hawai University ATS project is a ground telescope early warning system, consisting of four telescopes located in the northern hemisphere on the tops of Haleakala and Maunaloa and in the southern hemisphere of South Africa and Chile.

Larry Danno, the astronomer IfA and co-leader of ATLAS, explains in his statement: "".

It should be noted that the ATLAS system can issue a warning 24 hours before an asteroid with a diameter of 20 metres can be destroyed on a city scale. Since larger asteroids can be detected at a longer distance, ATLAS can provide up to three weeks of warning about a 100-metre asteroid capable of causing regional damage, but it can only be prevented... so it needs to be supplemented by real action such as the DART mission.

John Tonry, Professor IFA and the chief explorer of ATLAS, explains that, according to recent data, the impact of the spacecraft was "strong enough to reduce its 12-hour orbital period by about five minutes." As a result of the eclipse that we can observe from Earth, it will continue to occur earlier and earlier, and in a week or two, we will have a very good indicator of how far Dimorphos has retreated after DART.

As a result, data collected by all observation systems will allow the planning of a potential mission to reject a hazardous asteroid, knowing that "at what time it should be struck, what the mass of the spacecraft should be, how fast it should travel".

Further observations from Hawaii

Additional images of the impact were obtained at the top of Mauna Kea by the Canadian-France-Gawaya Telescope.

That's why astronomer IFA Richard Weinscout and astronomer Robert Verick of the University of West Ontario received images of the dust plume about 13 hours after the DART crash with Dimorphos.

For the next two months, IfA astronomers will work with students to study the orbit of Dimorphos using the UH 88 telescope on Mauna Kea and the northern Folkes telescope on Haleakal, which is one of the many telescopes of the Las Cumbres telescope network.

Indeed, this Las Cumbres network is a worldwide distribution of telescopes based on artificial intelligence called "planner." Working without human intervention, the OCH internetist accepts observations from scientists, analyses everything, starting with requests and competing conditions at each telescope site, directs individual telescopes to the desired observations and collects results. Scientists can make observations at any time, as the planner updates the entire network plan about every five minutes.

In addition, new images made by the DART satellite, LICIACUbe, provided by the Italian Space Agency, show a collision on the other side

It was deployed on the spacecraft on 11 September and was moving behind it to record an event from a safe distance of about 55 km. Three minutes after the impact, CubeSat flew over Dimorphos to take pictures. A series of images shows a bright material that was thrown from the surface of Dimorphos after the impact.

In conclusion, the NASA DART mission confirmed that a space agency could successfully direct a spacecraft to a deliberate impact on an asteroid and divert it from its current trajectory. Future planetary defence strategies could rely on a powerful network of telescopes to prevent and ensure the launch of such a rejection mission.