NOTE: NASA offers two feeds of the event – read on for more details.
NASA is about to intentionally crash a spacecraft into a distant asteroid in a first of its kind planetary defense test.
The hope is that by hitting a spacecraft at about 15,000 mph into an asteroid, we can alter its orbit, confirming a way to divert potentially dangerous space rocks away from Earth.
To be clear, NASA’s target asteroid, Dimorphos, poses no threat to Earth. This is just an attempt to determine the viability of such a process if we ever see a large asteroid on a collision course with Earth.
NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft, which launched in November 2021, will reach Dimorphos on Monday, September 26, and the entire event will be streamed online.
The 530-foot-wide Dimorphos asteroid orbits another called Didymos, which is about half a mile in diameter.
When DART Dimorphos hits a location about 11 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 directs DART to its final destination and will also provide a real-time feed of the spacecraft, sending one image per second back to Earth.
NASA says the screen will be mostly black in the hours before the collision, except for a single bright spot that indicates the location of the binary asteroid system where the spacecraft is headed.
But as the moment of impact gets closer, the bright spot gets bigger and detailed asteroids eventually become visible.
Last week, DART also launched a camera called the Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids (LICIACube). It will fly past Dimorphos about three minutes after the impact, capturing high-resolution images of the crash site, including the resulting plume of asteroid material and possibly the newly formed impact crater.
How to watch?
The DART spacecraft will impact the Dimorphos asteroid on Monday, September 26 at 7:14 p.m. ET (4:14 p.m. PT).
NASA offers two feeds of the event. The first, embedded at the top of this page, provides the most up-to-date DRACO camera feed and starts at 6:00 PM ET (3:00 PM PT). The second feed, which can be found on this page, offers similar coverage and starts half an hour earlier at 5:30 p.m. ET (2:30 p.m. PT).
NASA said that after the impact, the feed will go black due to a loss signal. Then, after about two minutes, the stream will show a repeat showing the last moments prior to the impact.
At 8 p.m., NASA will livestream a press conference discussing the mission.