November 22, 2017

19.03.11: Our Moon… in Cosmic Rays.

The tech behind the map: LRO’s Cosmic RAy Telescope for the Effects of Radiation instrument. (Credit: NASA/LRO).

Sure, you’ve seen the Moon countless times, and perhaps you’ve been drawn out, zombie-like to view this weekend’s “Super-Moon,” but have you ever seen the moon in… cosmic rays?  This is but one gem that has come out of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). [Read more...]

Near Earth Objects: Mitigating the Threat.

(Editor’s Note: What follows is a scenario/article along with an original lesson plan re-written for a blog format).

Arizona Meteor Crater… x100=a bad day for the Earth? (Photo by Author).

Eventually, it had to happen. With scant warning, the announcement is made that a large space rock is inbound to strike Earth and is only weeks away. The news largely takes the public by surprise; this is the big one, an extinction class event. People are exasperated to learn that little can be done to deflect the large impactor; all that remains is for scientists to predict the precise impact location and for world organizations to attempt evacuations so that some of humanity might survive… [Read more...]

26.03.10: Dude, That’s My Rover!

The Apollo 13 booster impact site. (Credit: NASA/GSFC?Arizona State University).
Apollo XIII booster impact site. (Credit: NASA/GFSC/Arizona State University).

 

   Attention, lunar landing deniers; NASAs Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has a bone to pick with you. The LRO continues to reveal some fairly mind-blowing pics of the Moon up-close. This week saw two uber-cool images which show what a littered place the lunar surface has become. First up is the splat of the Apollo 13 upper stage north of the Mare Cognitum pictured above. Apollo 13 was, of course, the “successful failure” of Hollywood lore. Bright rays and ejecta are apparent, and you can almost picture the booster tail sticking straight out of the lunar regolith like some bad Beastie Boys album cover. Sensors placed 135 km distant by Apollo 12 astronauts registered the impact event.   [Read more...]

AstroEvent: Exploring Clavius.

Tycho-Registax

The Tycho Clavius region (Photo by Author).

   This week, as the Moon moves past 1st Quarter on the 23rd toward Full on the 30th is a good time to explore the lunar environs. Specifically, I’d like to turn your attention towards Clavius crater, a prominent feature in the southern lunar highlands. One of the largest impact craters on the Moon at 152.2 miles across, it’s large enough to actually see the lunar curvature in its structure, and houses many smaller craters within its walls. It is visible starting at 9-10 days after New Moon, and presents a slightly different face each lunation. In fact, Clavius is one of the few craters that may be discerned by keen eyed viewers with the naked eye. In a small telescope, the relatively ancient structure of Clavius contrasts well with the nearby splashiness of young Tycho. Are these ancient, broad floored craters the result of impacts, or do they suggest early volcanic activity? Most of the rocks returned by Apollo astronauts were igneous and basaltic by nature, suggesting the young Moon once had a molten crust. [Read more...]

10.10.09: An Active Mercury?

An atmosphere. Magnetosphere. Signs of recent geological activity…is it Mars? Europa? Some far off exo-planet? Nope…its none other than Mercury, a visual twin of our own Moon and long thought of as just as inactive. The past three flybys of NASA’s Messenger spacecraft have revealed a world of dynamic activity. First, there is Mercury’s on-again, off-again magnetic field, a sign that it may possess an active core. Now that 95%+ of the surface has been visualized, a picture is emerging of a crater pocked surface that has also been shaped by recent volcanism. Finally, Messenger has picked up tenuous traces of magnesium out-gassing from the planet as a result of the intense solar radiation bombarding the sun-ward side, contributing to a tenuous trailing exosphere. The 3rd pass last week was the closest yet, and revealed more stunning photos of what is now the tiniest “planet…” Messenger will enter a permanent orbit in 2011. Google Mercury, anyone?

29.9.9: Can you Spot the Cave in Copernicus?

I’ve got a unique challenge for you, as you brush up on your lunar geography in anticipation for next weeks’ LCROSS impact. Next time you’re viewing the waxing gibbous Moon with your friends, amaze them (or make them think your totally crazy) by issuing the off-handed remark; “Did you know that there is a ‘cave’ in the crater Copernicus? The “cave” in question is, of course, an optical illusion. Its interesting to note, however, that in the pre-Apollo era, would-be Selenographers were faced with a lunar landscape that was much less straight forward. This first came to our attention while reading a February 2003 article in Sky & Telescope written by Steven O’Meara. The cave itself rests on the northern inner lip of the crater and is elusive unless caught at the precise sun-angle of 10.7 degrees above the local lunar horizon. This generally occurs around 10-12 days of age, and I encourage you to take a look early this week. [Read more...]