As NASA shared on Tuesday, analysis of data obtained over the past two weeks by their Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) investigation team shows the spacecraft’s kinetic impact with its target asteroid, Dimorphos, successfully altered the asteroid’s orbit. This marks humanity’s first time purposely changing the motion of a celestial object and the first full-scale demonstration of asteroid deflection technology. Images such as these helped scientists understand the orbit change resulting from DART’s impact.
“We’re using the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), working with JPL’s Goldstone telescope, to provide radar observations to determine the new orbit of Dimorphos around Didymos,” shared Green Bank Observatory scientist Toney Minter. “From optical observations we know the impact of the DART spacecraft ejected dust from Dimorphos, so we expect the orbit to have changed measurably. The two week radar campaign with the GBT and JPL’s Goldstone telescope will determine the new orbit of Dimorphos,” The GBT is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope, with a unique design that allows for an unblocked aperture and a view of 85 percent of the celestial sphere. The GBT is located in Green Bank, West Virginia, in the National Radio Quiet Zone, the only area of its kind in the United States, protecting scientific research against human-made electromagnetic interference.
“The Green Bank Observatory is very excited to contribute to this radar measure- ment in support of the DART mission,” Jim Jackson, Green Bank Observatory director, added. “The Green Bank Telescope’s large collecting area makes it extremely sensitive and a prime receiving station to detect these faint radar echoes. Given the huge dust cloud and trail kicked up by the impact, DART clearly had a dramatic effect on poor little Dimorphos.”
The Green Bank Observatory is a major facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.