DART: Can We Change an Asteroid’s Course and Save Planet Earth?

SETI Talks

Tags: SETI Talks, Asteroids, SETI Institute, NASA Missions and Observatories

Time: Monday, Sep 26, 2022 -

Location: Online

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NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, is the world’s first full-scale planetary defense test, demonstrating one method of asteroid deflection technology. True to its name, DART is a focused mission to prove whether a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid, intentionally collide with it and protect Earth from a potential asteroid impact.

The mission target, which poses no threat to Earth, is the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos (Greek for “two forms”), which orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos (Greek for “twin”).

Join SETI Institute Senior Astronomer Franck Marchis and Beth Johnson for a special SETI Talks with scientists involved in the mission or planetary defense at large. We will follow the spacecraft as it approaches its target, learn about the navigation system from JPL and APL engineers and scientists, see how astronomers around the world will watch the impact using other facilities and discuss why it matters. Finally, we will collaborate with Unistellar citizen astronomers live from Reunion Island to watch the impact and see if any aftermath is detected.

Our guests will include:

  • Dr. Larry Denneau, ATLAS Co-PI and Senior Software Engineer at the Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawai'i
  • Dr. Julie Bellerose, DART Navigation Team Chief at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Dr. Amanda Sickafoose, Planetary Science Institute
  • Dr. Nicolas Erasmus, Planetary Science Institute
  • Dr. Michael Busch, SETI Institute research scientist
  • Dr. Andrew Chen, chief scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Dr. Jian-Yang Li, Planetary Science Institute
  • Dr. Ryan Lambert, SETI Institute
  • Patrice Huet, Unistellar Network
  • Dr. Joe Masiero, Caltech/IPAC


2:30-2:40pm PDT

  • Welcome and introduction

2:40-3:00pm PDT

  • Larry Denneau – Introduction to near-Earth asteroids and ATLAS
  • Julie Bellerose - DART navigation, sequence of events

3:00pm-3:20pm PDT

  • Alex Meyer (Colorado University) - post-impact dynamics – what can we expect.
  • Amanda Sickafoose & Nic Erasmus (from SA)

3:20-3:40pm PDT

  • Michael Busch - What do we know from RADAR ops?
  • Andy Cheng - “Why Dart?” and reveal of first image of Dimorphos

3:40-4:00pm PDT

  • Jian-Yang Li - HST observations of the DART impact, as well as other planned observations of the ejecta
  • Ryan Lambert

4:00-4:20pm PDT

  • Impact live (NASA feed + Reunion Island feed) - Impact!
  • Patrice Huet and more observers in Reunion Island
  • Joe Masiero - NEOWISE and NEO Surveyor

4:20-4:40pm PDT

  • Wrap up with all scientists
Michael W. Busch

Michael W. Busch is a research scientist at the SETI Institute.  His work focuses on radar observations of asteroids, particularly spacecraft mission targets and potential Earth impactors.  He has also worked on observations of the Moon and of Mars and its satellites.  He is a member of the DART Investigation Team.

Andy Cheng

Dr. Andy Cheng is a planetary scientist at JHU/APL and a Lead Investigator for the mission. He was Deputy Chief Scientist for Space Science at NASA Headquarters from 2007 to 2008. He was Project Scientist of the NEAR mission, the first mission to orbit and land on an asteroid in 2001. He was an Interdisciplinary Scientist on the Galileo mission to Jupiter from 1995-2003. He was the Principal Investigator for the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt Object Arrokoth. He obtained his A. B. in physics from Princeton University in 1971, and his Ph. D. in physics from Columbia University in 1977.

Dr. Jian-Yang Li

Dr. Jian-Yang Li is a Senior Scientist at Planetary Science Institute. He is a DART investigation team member, leading the Hubble Space Telescope observations of the DART impact ejecta. His research is focused on the composition and physical properties of asteroids and comets using spacecraft and Earth-based images. Dr. Li participated in a number of small bodies missions, such as Deep Impact, Dawn, and OSIRIS-REx, and is an expert of Hubble Space Telescope observations.

Dr. Amanda Sickafoose

Dr. Amanda Sickafoose is a Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, based out of Cape Town, South Africa. She holds an MSc and PhD in Astrophysical, Planetary, and Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Before leaving the U.S., she worked as a Research Scientist in the Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previous positions include being a staff astronomer on the 10-m Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) and the Head of Instrumentation at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO).

Register and participate in the discussion! We will take questions from our Zoom audience in the Q&A throughout this live event!

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