Tuesday, March 7, 2023

LCO Data Confirm the Success of NASA’s DART Mission

Las Cumbres Observatory

The NASA Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission — the first test mission for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office — launched a spacecraft in November of 2021 with the aim to crash into the binary near-Earth asteroid system Didymos. 

LCO scientists Dr. Tim Lister, Dr. Joey Chatelain, and Dr. Edward Gomez are coauthors on this paper. Dr. Lister heads the LCO group studying Near-Earth Objects, which employed data taken from LCO 1-m telescopes in South Africa and Chile for analysis. The data from the LCO telescopes, along with two others in Chile and planetary radar observations from Goldstone, CA, were used to measure the new period of Dimorphos after the DART impact. 

Dr. Tim Lister is pleased that LCO played a vital role in the DART mission, “It’s been a great privilege to be involved with and contribute to such an important mission for planetary defense. Having LCO telescopes in both Chile and South Africa allowed us to compare with other telescopes in Chile and also capture parts of Dimorphos’s orbit that other telescopes couldn’t. LCO’s extensive telescope network in the Southern Hemisphere was important in being able to measure the period change so soon after the impact.”

DART is a really exciting project--it's really fun to watch these results unfold from a front row seat. Tim, Edward and Joey are awesome scientists, and Tim's talks about DART are phenomenal. I had the privilege and misfortune of speaking following a DART talk he gave at our local Astronomy on Tap; very tough act to follow. 

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