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NASA will slam a spacecraft into an asteroid today. Here’s how to watch

The crash is being billed as the world’s first planetary defense test.

A NASA spacecraft will intentionally slam into an asteroid today.

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, is scheduled to crash into the space rock at 6:14 p.m. The asteroid poses no threat to Earth, but the space agency is testing a technique that could one day be used to defend our planet.

Here’s what you should know, including how to watch the crash.

What exactly is NASA doing?

NASA wants to know if it can change an asteroid’s direction in space through a technique called kinetic impact.

Its DART spacecraft will target Dimorphos, a small moon orbiting the near-Earth asteroid Didymos. Dimorphos is about 530 feet in diameter, according to NASA, making it an ideal target for testing.

Roughly the size of a small car, DART will make its way to the asteroid using a new autonomous guidance system. It will crash into the rock at roughly 4 miles per second, or more than 14,000 miles per hour.

Telescopes on Earth will observe the asteroid system and measure the change in Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos. The DART team will use the results to update and improve highly detailed computer simulations.

Why is this important?

In 2013, a meteor exploded over Russia, creating an airburst and shockwave that struck six cities across the country.

The explosion served as a reminder that dangerous objects can enter the Earth’s atmosphere anytime.

Astronomers estimate there are tens of thousands of near-Earth asteroids close to 500 feet wide and larger, big enough to cause regional devastation if they hit Earth, NASA says.

Today’s crash is billed as the world’s first planetary defense test.

How to watch

A live feed from the spacecraft will begin at 4:30 p.m. today.

Beginning at 5 p.m., NASA will provide live broadcast coverage of the DART mission.

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