The Italian robot telescope Elena has spotted the first leg of the NASA spacecraft’s DART mission. It was launched in the early morning of November 24 by the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The Falcon 9 upper stage, which rotated after separation from the spacecraft, was also recorded by the Elena telescope.
The abbreviation DART stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test – an attempt to change the motion of a double asteroid. In principle, asteroids can threaten the Earth, the consequences of a collision are unpredictably dire. Therefore, NASA decided to test the method of impact on a celestial body.
The system of two asteroids – Didyme and his satellite Didyme B (sometimes called Dimorph) – is well known to astronomers: it will be easy to evaluate the results of the experiment. Didim has a diameter of 780 m, its satellite is 160 m, and this satellite will become the target of NASA’s “military” apparatus. A double asteroid is considered potentially dangerous – these include all celestial bodies that can approach the Earth at a distance of less than 0.05 astronomical units (75 million km, half the distance to the Sun) and have a diameter of more than 140 m. The last time a system of two Didimov visited our places, in 2003, she passed only 0.048 astronomical units from the Earth. There was no threat, and even now there is no, but it is necessary to check the possibilities of humanity to defend itself.
Elena is part of Virtual Telescope Project 2.0, a robotic telescope system that anyone can use, whether they are an amateur or a professional astronomer. The system is operated by Gianluca Mazi, an Italian astrophysicist. At the moment when the DART program apparatus was discovered by the telescope, it was 150 thousand km from the Earth.
Shortly before the DART program apparatus completes its kamikaze mission – strikes Dimorph, LICIACube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids), a small spacecraft that will film the experiment itself, will separate from it. LICIACube developed in Italy for the Italian Space Agency.
Based on materials