The Astrophysics Research Center at Queen's University Belfast's Professor Alan Fitzsimmons will explain at the upcoming World Asteroid Day, an online event, the details of an international experimental asteroid deflection. report said, Prof. Fitzsimmons, who is involved in two upcoming space missions that will gauge how difficult it is to deflect an asteroid, is helping to answer the questions, "What would happen if an asteroid was seen hurtling towards this planet?", and "Would humans be able to halt it or go the way of the dinosaurs?".

Also explained in this report is the Didymos system, a pair of asteroids initially noted in 1996, and will be the subjects of trials that could one day be utilized to avoid a collision of asteroids.

If an asteroid, like the ones in the Didymos system, were to hit the earth, it could wipe out any city or town within tens of kilometers of the impact area.

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Science Times - Asteroid Deflection: Details Explained; NASA, ESA Prepare for the Space Occurrence
(Photo: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL on Wikimedia Commons)
Illustration of DART on course to impact Didymos B, viewed from the side of Didymos B

Didymos System

The Greek word "Didymos," which, according to NASA, means twin, is described as the larger of the binary asteroid system that presently orbits the sun.

More so, Dimorphos, also called Didymoon, is its tinier companion moonlet and will be the redirection tests' focus over the next couple of years.

The said pair of asteroids will pass close to Earth next year, and while posturing no risk, are representing a perfect chance to test a deflection.

If everything goes as planned, Didymoon will be the first-ever celestial object in the solar system to have its orbit moved by human effort in a measurable manner.

2-Stage Trial

The trial comprises two stages: the Double Asteroid Redirection Test or DART of NASA and the Hera Mission of the European Space Agency.

DART, as this report specified, is the first element, and it is described as a "kinetic impactor technique." Its spacecraft is set to deliberately crash itself into the moonlet at approximately six-kilometer-per-second speed.

The collision needs to change the moonlet's orbital period by several minutes, adequate to be observed and gauged through the use of telescopes on Earth.

Fitzsimmons, who is part of the DART investigation team said, they, at NASA and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, have developed what he described as a "fantastic mission" that needs to change Dimorphos' orbit.

While such a change can be observed from Earth, the international scientific alliance wants to find out more, including what the collision area will look like, what material Dimorphos is made of, and what other changes have taken place to the 160-meter-sized moon.

The Hera Mission

Named after the Greek goddess of marriage and approximately the size of an office table, the second satellite is set to collect information about Didymoon after it has been impacted.

Hera, as explained on the ESA site, will take off from Earth in 2024 and arrive at Didymoon in 2026, staying there for about a year. While it stays there, the spacecraft will carry out a "crash scene investigation," where it will accurately gauge how huge Dimorphos is and how the asteroid reacted to being hit by DART.

Fitzsimmons explained, DART and Hera will be the first practice of humanity in planetary defense. Both space missions will carry smaller cubesat spacecraft to help understand better how to move asteroids.

Professor Fitzsimmons will explain all details about asteroids and comets in a talk, as earlier mentioned, to mark World Asteroid Day on June 30 with the Geological Society of London. Attendance to this online event is free and open to the public, although pre-registration is required.

Related information is shown on NOVA PBS Official's YouTube video below:


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