| September 14, 2022
The pair of asteroids the Dart mission is headed for is named Didymos.
The pair of asteroids the Dart mission is headed for is named Didymos. (Photo: NASA/Disclosure)
In a few weeks, NASA’s Dart spacecraft will collide with asteroid Dimorphos to attempt to change its orbit. Meanwhile, the small satellite LICIACube (brief for “Light Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroids”) will be close by, watching the occasion from a secure distance. The Italian satellite “selected a experience” with the mission and was launched on Sunday (11). He will now spend the subsequent 15 days adjusting his place to trace his affect and outcomes.
The pair of asteroids the Dart mission is headed for are generally known as Didymos, however they’re truly the house rocks Didymos and Dimorphos. The size of the first is 780 meters, and the second is 160 meters. While each orbit the Sun, Dimorphos orbits Didymos each 11 hours and 55 minutes.
Elena Mazzotta Epifani, an astronomer at the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics (Inaf), defined that LICIACube will journey autonomously to Dimorphos. “It’s going to level its cameras at the asteroid system in addition to Dart and doubtless take some footage,” he stated. The satellite has two cameras and must be situated roughly 1 km from the fall website.
When the Dart crashes into a house rock, scientists anticipate an enhance in brightness in the Dimorphos photographs, which must be seen when evaluating photos earlier than and after the crash. Astronomers will monitor the asteroid system for a number of weeks after the collision to ensure every little thing went based on plan. But even on this case, the particulars of the penalties of the collision with the asteroid will nonetheless be lacking.
LICIACube will receive this knowledge by itself by contacting Dimorphos for a “crime scene” inspection shortly after the collision. “LICIACube will make a fast flyby about 3 minutes after affect at a minimal distance of 55 km from the floor of Dimorphos on closest method,” Epifani stated. During the flyby, the satellite will take photos centered on the affect facet and with out collisions, along with the particles plume. After that, the footage will be despatched to Earth.
Understanding the penalties of Dart’s collision with Dimorphos is essential as a result of the mission will take a look at planetary protection methods which will sometime be wanted if any harmful asteroid is discovered on a collision course with Earth. In addition, Dart and LICIACube will deliver astronomers the first detailed photos of asteroid Dimorphos.
LICIACube will take a number of photos of the plume launched by the affect, the crater and the different facet of the rock to assist astronomers perceive the results of the affect on its floor and environment. “Together, Dart and LICIACube will for the first time analyze the bodily properties of a near-Earth binary asteroid intimately, permitting us to research its nature and acquire perception into its formation and evolution,” she stated.
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