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Science on Tap--Earth Strikes Back: The DART Mission to Impact an Asteroid

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Doors open at 6 p.m.

Lecture begins at 6:30 p.m.

Speaker: Derek Richardson, UMD Professor of Astronomy

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft launched last November and is expected to impact an asteroid on September 26, 2022 at 7:14 p.m. ET. The DART mission is a technology demonstration of using a kinetic impactor to deflect such potentially hazardous asteroids. Over 1 million asteroids have been cataloged to date, of which nearly 30,000 are near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), and some of those pose a threat of future collision with Earth (although there is no imminent danger from asteroids being tracked currently).

DART is a NASA mission led by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory that is targeting the tiny 160 m-diameter moon (named Dimorphos) of binary asteroid Didymos, striking it with the 570 kg DART spacecraft at around 6.1 km/s, changing the moon's 12 h orbital period around its larger companion by as much as 10 minutes or more. The impact will have no significant bearing on any future encounter of Didymos with Earth.

In this talk, I will provide background about asteroids and the hazards they pose, along with details about the DART mission and how the University of Maryland is contributing. DART is part of a broader cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) called the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA). As part of this cooperation, in 2024, ESA plans to launch the Hera spacecraft to survey the Didymos system.


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College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences

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