Ondřej astronomers participate in NASA’s mission against an asteroid. The strike will take place next week

Experts Petr Pravec and Petr Scheirich from the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Ondřejov also participate significantly in the space mission. They led an international team that obtained the data necessary to determine the orbit of a moon called Dimorphos around the primary body Didymos.

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According to the press secretary of the Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Pavel Suchan, who informed them, these are key findings necessary for the planning of the given mission.

The moon was discovered by the astronomer Pravec’s team

The near-Earth asteroid, assigned catalog number 65803 and the name Didymos, was discovered by American astronomers from the Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona on April 11, 1996.

Its binary character (i.e. the presence of a moon) was revealed by a Czech-American team led by Petr Pravec using photometric and radar measurements during the asteroid’s close approach to Earth in November 2003. A few years later, Didymos is was selected as the target of a NASA mission called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART).

The goal of this mission is to test the technology to deflect a potentially dangerous asteroid using the kinetic impactor method.

The DART probe was successfully launched from the US Space Force’s Vandenberg Air Force Base in California last November and will hit the moon Dimorphos at high speed (6 km / s) on Monday, September 26 at 11:14 PM ET, which is Tuesday, 27 September at 1:14 our time.

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This impact will lead to a change in Dimorphos’ path around the main body (the so-called primary) of Didymos. The actual effect that the impact of the probe on Dimorphos will cause will be deduced from the extent and nature of this change.

Help with future threats to Earth?

The data obtained will lead to the calibration and refinement of theoretical models that will allow the application of the “kinetic impactor” method to deflect any truly dangerous asteroid in the future, that is, the one that would be in a so-called collision course with ours. planet.

Ondřej Pravec and Scheirich astronomers are members of the international research team of the DART mission. They led a team of observers who, between 2015 and 2021, obtained precise photometric measurements of the Didymos-Dimorphos system using 11 large ground-based telescopes – with main mirror diameters ranging from three to 10 meters. From the data obtained, they built an orbital model of this system and predicted the relative position of Dimorphos with respect to Didymos at the moment of impact.

According to Suchan, the accurate knowledge of the mutual position of these bodies allowed to guide the probe towards an optimal trajectory that will lead to the maximum measurable effect of its impact.

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Theoretical models predict that the impulse given to Dimorphos by the DART probe upon impact, enhanced by the jet of Dimorphos material from the impact crater, will reduce Dimorphos’ orbital period around Didymos by an estimated interval from minutes to tens of minutes. This change in Dimorphos’ orbit will be easily measured by a network of ground-based telescopes.

Ondřej’s astronomers will analyze the photometric data obtained and determine the magnitude of the change in Dimorphos’ path caused by the impact of the spacecraft. The final results will then be published after all ground measurements are completed in March next year.

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