NASA Might Have to Take Out a Killer Asteroid Sooner Than It Realized

NASA is watching an asteroid that could collide with Earth in the next 23 years, as new research into its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) probe has been released.

The asteroid, known as 2023 DW—which has a 50-meter (164 foot) diameter — was detected by the European Space Agency on February 26. It has been ranked as number one on its Risk List—meaning it has the potential to collide with Earth.

Scientists have estimated that the asteroid could hit earth on February 14, 2046, but there is no reason to fear. NASA predicts this is still a very unlikely scenario, and it has a plan of attack if it were to pose any danger.

The DART test was a NASA Space Mission that tested a defense method against asteroids that have the potential to hit Earth.

Asteroid and Earth
A photo shows an asteroid about to collide with the Earth. New details into NASA's DART mission have been released. dottedhippo/Getty

It was launched in late 2021, hitting the Dimorphos asteroid.

The findings, released on March 9 and published in Nature, show more evidence into just how effective this method was as diverting its route.

The DART spacecraft hit a spot around 25 meters from the asteroid's center, which maximized its force of impact. As it made impact, the asteroid's rubble flew outwards, the study reported.

Both of these factors meant that the asteroid recoiled further away, causing it to divert route. The method was only tested on one asteroid, but it could be applied to others.

Franck Marchis, of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and chief scientific officer at the telescope manufacturer Unistellar in Marseille, France, said in a press release: "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, said that 30 years ago, he would not have been confident that a killer asteroid could be diverted. But now that DART's effectiveness has been proven, there is hope.

"We will know what to do about it when something new is found", Statler said.

It is likely that as more data comes in about 2023 DW, the risk factor will be better established.

"Often when new objects are first discovered, it takes several weeks of data to reduce the uncertainties and adequately predict their orbits years into the future," the NASA Asteroid Watch said in a tweet.

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