There are two important Moon stories that have happened or are happening in the current couple weeks. They range from exciting (confirmation of the discovery of water on the Moon) to super-exciting (we’re going to slam a spaceship into the Moon on Friday).
Story 1: The Near Future – LCROSS
On Friday October 9, 2009 (4:30am PST) NASA’s LCROSS spacecraft will separate into two parts (the “Centaur” followed by the “shepherding” observing spacecraft) and both will slam into a crater on the Moon, kicking up a plume of material big enough to be seen from Earth with 10- 12-inch telescopes. NASA has requested that astronomers (amateur and professional) observe the plume if possible to help out with the science of the mission. This is one of only a few NASA missions I know of to actively seek the participation of amateurs. Awesome.
This video gives a good look at what is going to happen: LCROSS Impact Animation from NASA
We want to see that plume get large enough to be lit by the Sun, which will cause ice (water), hydrocarbons, and carbon-compounds to vaporize and become more detectable.
Some useful statistics from NASA:
- The first spacecraft to impact is “about the weight of a large SUV, and will impact the Moon at over 9,000 km/h (5,600 mph).”
- The crater it makes will be “about 1/3 of a football field wide and about the depth of the deep end of a swimming pool.”
Story 2: The Recent Past – H2O
While we’re on the topic of the Moon – a couple weeks ago we got pretty good confirmation of water on the Moon at the end of September. Three separate spacecraft confirmed this: Chandrayaan-1, Deep Impact, and Cassini. How much water? That depends on a lot, but so you have something to give out: Emily (of the Planetary Society) says, “10 to 1000 parts per million. This is not a lot. The very highest number corresponds to one liter of water in one ton of lunar rock.”
Where’d I Get My Info?
Water on the Moon – Read Emily’s Posts
~ A l i c e !