NOTE: NASA offers two broadcasts of the event; read on for more details.
NASA is about to deliberately crash a spacecraft into a distant asteroid in a first-of-its-kind planetary defense test.
The hope is that by crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid at a speed of around 15,000 mph, we can alter its orbit, thus confirming a way to move potentially dangerous space rocks away from Earth.
To be clear, NASA’s target asteroid Dimorphos does not pose a threat to Earth. This is simply an effort to determine the feasibility of such a process if we ever detect a large asteroid on a collision course with Earth.
NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft, which launched in November 2021, will arrive at Dimorphos on Monday, September 26, and the entire event will be streamed online.
The 530-foot-wide asteroid Dimorphos is orbiting another called Didymos, which is about half a mile wide.
When DART crashes into Dimorphos at a location about 6.8 million miles from Earth, telescopes here on the ground will analyze the asteroid’s orbit to see if it has changed in any way.
DART is equipped with an instrument called the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical Navigation (DRACO). DRACO is guiding DART to its final destination and will also provide a real-time transmission from the spacecraft, sending one image per second back to Earth.
NASA says that in the hours before impact, the screen will appear mostly black, apart from a single point of light marking the location of the binary asteroid system the spacecraft is heading toward.
But as the moment of impact approaches, the point of light will get larger and detailed asteroids will eventually become visible.
Last week, DART also released a camera called the Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids (LICIACube). It will fly past Dimorphos about three minutes after impact, capturing high-resolution images of the crash site, including the resulting plume of asteroid material and possibly the newly formed impact crater.
The DART spacecraft is set to impact asteroid Dimorphos at 7:14 pm ET (4:14 pm PT) on Monday, September 26.
NASA offers two broadcasts of the event. The first, embedded at the top of this page, offers the most up-to-date DRACO camera feed and starts at 6 pm ET (3 pm PT). The second feeding can be found on this pageoffers similar coverage and starts half an hour earlier at 5:30 pm ET (2:30 pm PT).
NASA said that after the impact, the signal will turn black due to a loss of signal. Then, after about two minutes, the broadcast will show a replay showing the final moments before impact.
At 8 pm, NASA will broadcast a live news conference about the mission.