NASA is intently monitoring an asteroid, 2023 DW, which has been designated as number one on the Risk List with a diameter of 50 meters (164 feet).
This body has the potential to collide with Earth on February 14, 2046, although it is still deemed an unlikely event.
NASA’s DART Test
To protect against this threat, the agency launched its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) probe.
Findings Show Effectiveness
Recent findings, released on March 9 and published in Nature, provide further insight into the effectiveness of the mission. The spacecraft hit its target, the Dimorphos asteroid, a mere 25 meters from its center, resulting in a powerful recoil that pushed it further away from its original course.
A Plan of Attack
Franck Marchis, of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and chief scientific officer at the telescope manufacturer Unistellar in Marseille, France, believes this method could be applied to other asteroids, saying, “It means that we can quickly design a mission to deflect an asteroid if there is a threat, and we know that this has a very high chance of being effective.”
Tom Statler, DART’s program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington DC, echoes this sentiment, noting that with the successful demonstration of DART, there is now hope for averting imminent danger. He adds, “We will know what to do about it when something new is found.”
Although 2023 DW is still under observation, it is likely that more data will be gathered in the coming weeks to better assess the risk factor and refine the predictions of its orbit. With the new information, a plan of action can be devised should any danger arise.