Netflix movie spotlights top-ranked MSU astronomy program | MSUToday

An in-orbit demonstration of an asteroid’s deflection is a key test NASA and other agencies want to perform before it’s ever needed. DART will be the very first space mission to demonstrate the deflection of an asteroid by a kinetic impactor. the purpose of the mission is to deflect a small lunar asteroid by changing its orbit around a larger asteroid, named Didymos.

“The idea is similar to a collision between billiard balls,” said Seth Jacobson, planetary scientist at MSU, College of Natural Sciences, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and member of a team multidisciplinary researcher working on the DART project. “A ball is moving on a trajectory, and we are going to try to hit it with a much smaller ball so that it no longer follows its old trajectory.”

Seth Jacobson

Neither Didymos nor its small moon pose a threat to Earth, but by performing the test with this asteroid system, the DART mission team will be able to accurately measure the deviation of the small moon’s orbit. around Didymos, providing important information on the kinetic deviation technique. . The impact is expected to take place in the fall of 2022.

Why MSU?

The film’s science consultant, Amy Mainzer, principal investigator for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission, and a professor in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, said: “Michigan State University is a great public school, and they have a fantastic astronomy program. When Adam McKay, the screenwriter and director of the film, chose Michigan State University, I already knew its reputation in the field of astronomy and I agreed.

In fact, MSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is one of the highest ranked departments in the country. MSU’s Astronomy Group includes recognized leaders in the fields of stellar and nuclear astrophysics, galaxies and cosmology, and planetary and exoplanetary science. Research in the department even specializes in the areas of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Dr. Randall Mindy (galaxy clusters) and Jennifer Lawrence’s Kate Dibiasky (supernovae). Additionally, MSU’s Nuclear Physics Graduate Program, also housed in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, is ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Report and has been for 10 years.

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Even though the primary purpose of the mission is planetary defense, Jacobson sees it as a greater scientific benefit.

“These binary asteroids are interesting little worlds that have moons and change over time,” he said. “And there’s a lot of really interesting physics going on in and around them. They are really crucial to understanding the history of the solar system, and so we need to understand the physics to finally unlock our own past, the deep past of humanity.

Jacobson weighed in on the film:

  • Is a 3-6 mile (5-10 km) comet a planet killer as depicted in the movie? “Absoutely.”
  • Can we only know six months in advance? “Yes, especially if it’s a comet. Comets have large elliptical trajectories that make them hard to see for much of their orbits until they approach the sun, and their surfaces heat up enough to start shedding material by sublimation to create their tails . But a collision with a comet will be a rare event.
  • Was the film realistic in its depiction of the comet? “That’s pretty good. Hollywood exaggerated the large size and number of small comet pieces falling from the main mass to make secondary impacts. And the physics of an impact like this would be much more spectacular, the destruction faster and the devastation more severe than they suggest. But I am picky.
  • “All of the different storylines are somewhat over the top, which makes for a good comedy, but the essence of greed and conflict of interest that leads to the end of the film is relatable. I see the film as an allegory of how humanity reacts to the threat of climate change.A challenge in convincing some people of the threat of climate change is that its effects are slow and seemingly intangible, which is very different from an asteroid impact. the film depicts a much more noticeable threat but leaves the same political and media dynamics in. It shows just how far-fetched those dynamics are.

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