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Eric Phillips
Eric Phillips

Ionut Eduardo Geo Han Vai Vai 2022

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How can we hunt down all the near-Earth asteroids that are capable of posing a threat to us? A new study looks at whether the upcoming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) is up to the job.Charting Nearby ThreatsLSST is an 8.4-m wide-survey telescope currently being built in Chile. When it goes online in 2022, it will spend the next ten years surveying our sky, mapping tens of billions of stars and galaxies, searching for signatures of dark energy and dark matter, and hunting for transient optical events like novae and supernovae. But in its scanning, LSST will also be looking for asteroids that approach near Earth.Cumulative number of near-Earth asteroids discovered over time, as of June 16, 2016. [NASA/JPL/Chamberlin]Near-Earth objects (NEOs) have the potential to be hazardous if they cross Earths path and are large enough to do significant damage when they impact Earth. Earths history is riddled with dangerous asteroid encounters, including the recent Chelyabinsk airburst in 2013, the encounter that caused the kilometer-sized Meteor Crater in Arizona, and the impact thought to contribute to the extinction of the dinosaurs.Recognizing the potential danger that NEOs can pose to Earth, Congress has tasked NASA with tracking down 90% of NEOs larger than 140 meters in diameter. With our current survey capabilities, we believe weve discovered roughly 25% of these NEOs thus far. Now a new study led by Tommy Grav (Planetary Science Institute) examines whether LSST will be able to complete this task.Absolute magnitude, H, of asynthetic NEO population. Though these NEOs are all larger than 140 m, they have a large spread in albedos. [Grav et al. 2016]Can LSST Help?Based on previous observations of NEOs and resulting predictions for NEO properties and orbits, Grav and collaborators simulate a synthetic population of NEOs all above 140 m in size. With these improved population models, they demonstrate that the common tactic of using an asteroids absolute magnitude as a

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will be the first space experiment to demonstrate asteroid impact hazard mitigation by using a kinetic impactor. DART is currently in Preliminary Design Phase ("Phase B"), and is part of the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA), a joint ESA-NASA cooperative project. The AIDA target is the near-Earth binary asteroid 65803 Didymos, an S-class system that will make a close approach to Earth in fall 2022. The DART spacecraft is designed to impact the Didymos secondary at 6 km/s and demonstrate the ability to modify its trajectory through momentum transfer. The primary goals of AIDA are (1) perform a full-scale demonstration of the spacecraft kinetic impact technique for deflection of an asteroid; (2) measure the resulting asteroid deflection, by targeting the secondary member of a binary NEO and measuring the resulting changes of the binary orbit; and (3) study hyper-velocity collision effects on an asteroid, validating models for momentum transfer in asteroid impacts. The DART impact on the Didymos secondary will change the orbital period of the binary by several minutes, which can be measured by Earth-based optical and radar observations. The baseline DART mission launches in late 2020 to impact the Didymos secondary in 2022 near the time of its close pass of Earth, which enables an array of ground- and space-based observatories to participate in gathering data. The AIDA project will provide the first measurements of momentum transfer efficiency from hyper-velocity kinetic impact at full scale on an asteroid, where the impact conditions of the projectile are known, and physical properties and internal structures of the target asteroid are characterized or constrained. The DART kinetic impact is predicted to make a crater of 6 to 17 meters diameter, depending on target physical properties, but will also release a large volume of particulate ejecta that may be directly observable from Earth or even resolvable as


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