December 10, 2018

LCROSS Strikes Back!

The Moon won’t know what hit it Friday. On October 9th at 11:30 Universal Time, the LCROSS twin impactors will slam into the Moon’s south pole region. The quarry; permanently shaded water ice. LCROSS consists of a upper stage Centaur rocket weighing in at 5,200 lbs and a controlling “shepherd” spacecraft weighing in at 1,900 lbs. The stage section will separate shortly before impact, enabling the control package to fly through the resulting debris plume, which is expected to be 6 miles high at eject 350 tons of material from the surface. Both will successively slam into the surface at 5,600 mph. Recently, the candidate impact crater was shifted from Cabeus A to Cabeus proper.

So, what will YOU see? Unfortunately, the impact occurs right at sunrise for most of the East Coast, although that won’t stop us here at Astroguyz HQ in Hudson, Florida from trying. Generally speaking, the farther west you are, the better chances of having a waning gibbous Moon against a dark sky are. Most sites say that its best to have a ‘scope of a minimum aperture of 10”, although it should be noted that there is not much precedence for an event like this, and you won’t see anything if you don’t look! We plan to have video running via our trusty Celestron C8 at about 1/2,000th shutter speed at the time of impact… now is the time to familiarize yourself with the lunar south pole. The crater Clavius makes a good “signpost” to find your way around the region… Newton and Cabeus are to the southeast.

The astro-term of the week is; hydroxyl. A little chemistry is in order this week… a hydroxyl compound is a compound with a covalent or single bond oxygen-hydrogen molecule attached. Think R-O-H. A free hydroxyl anion would be OH- and known as hydroxide, as any good high school student of acid-base reactions knows. Much of the lunar water is thought to be locked up in this fashion, and doubtless some great minds are already wondering how we can tap this resource at such an austere location!

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