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TONIGHT LIVE – Spacecraft Smashes Into Asteroid

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Illustration of NASA’s DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency’s (ASI) LICIACube prior to impact at the Didymos binary system.
Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

At 6 pm Eastern Time, NASA will livestream the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART).

If you’re worried about another asteroid impact like the one that killed the dinosaurs, you won’t want to miss this.

It’s a beginning of an answer to the question whether, if we detected an asteroid headed for the Earth, we could divert it.

Nuclear blasts have been a media favorite, but it turns out that whacking the asteroid physically is more likely to be effective.

But asteroids come in two kinds – one that is pretty much solid, and another that is a bunch of rocks flying in close formation, held together by gravity. In the first, the spacecraft crashes into it and transfers energy to alter the asteroid’s orbit. There are some tricky parts to getting the right angle on it to get the result one wants, but otherwise straightforward.

It’s not clear and difficult to calculate what happens if the asteroid is a bunch of rocks. I’m hoping that is the case and that it is a glorious video, with the asteroid deforming and some rocks flying off in various directions. Not clear whether the orbit will change.

I’ve linked to the NASA page with recent news. Sadly, the website is not all that user friendly. I couldn’t even find a link to the livestream from it.

Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner

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