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Unistellar Citizen Science Network Successfully Captures DART Impact

Unistellar Citizen Science Network Successfully Captures DART Impact

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Unistellar video of impact from Reunion Island. Captured by Unistellar Citizen Scientist Bruno Payet.

On September 26, 2022, NASA attempted something never before tried. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is the world's first full-scale planetary defense test, designed to demonstrate one method of asteroid deflection technology. The mission's objective was 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 asteroid in question, which poses no threat to Earth, is the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos which orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos.

While researchers continue to analyze data and images from ground- and space-based telescopes to ascertain whether the impact successfully altered the trajectory of the asteroid, the impact itself was a spectacular success. Many of the impact and follow-up observations are from world-class observatories and telescopes: the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), Hubble Space Telescope, James Webb Space Telescope, the Italian Space Agency’s Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids, and of course, DART's onboard instrument Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation (DRACO).

Amateur astronomers and citizen scientists also turned out to observe DART’s impact. The Unistellar citizen science network, comprised of more than 8,000 eVscope users worldwide, had observers on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean and in Kenya who successfully captured the impact, including the formation of clouds of material after impact, a brightening, a plume and later the formation of a faint tail of ejected material.

“Amongst all the telescopes that turned to observe DART’s impact on Dimorphos, Unistellar’s eVscopes were easily some of the smallest,” said Ariel Graykowski, SETI Institute research scientist. "I think it is amazing that this small telescope has the power to observe the effects of the impact in such detail. From observing the initial, fast-moving ejecta plume to the continuous monitoring of the newly formed coma and tails, the network of Unistellar citizen astronomers has meticulously captured these events with their eVscopes. Because of that, we are learning a lot!"




The SETI Institute is Unistellar’s scientific partner, helping citizen scientists make meaningful contributions to astronomy. For more information, visit:


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