December 11, 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...]

15.06.10: Found: Lunokhod 1.

The final resting place of Lunokhod 1. (Photo by Author).

The final resting place of Lunokhod 1. (Photo by Author).

 

     NASA has located an old friend on the lunar surface; Lunokhod 1, which landed on the lunar surface in 1970 and fell silent after 11 months of service. A Soviet unmanned rover, Lunokhod 1 delivered some first rate science. Remember, the Apollo astronauts stayed on the lunar surface for a period of time equivalent to a weekend camping trip. With its old school tech, Lunokhod 1 is decidedly steam punk in appearance. Fans of this space will also remember its sister rover Lunokhod 2, purchased by Richard Gariott for $68,500 in 1993. Both were imaged and recovered by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter recently, and now scientists are recruiting the rovers to conduct science once again.  Lunokhod 1 was equipped with corner cube prisms, which reflect laser light back at exactly the direction that it came from. On April 22nd of this year, scientists at the Apache Point observatory in New Mexico fired (you always “fire” lasers!) laser pulses of light via the 3.5 meter telescope and were surprised with the results; more than 2,000 photons were successfully gathered on the first try. In fact, the reflectors on Lunokhod 1 are now brighter than on Lunokhod 2, which may be a scientific mystery in and of itself. Scientists hope to use studies in how the Moon moves through space to search out any potential kinks in General Relativity. That’s right; in the true spirit of science, Relativity (and Gravity, for that matter) is still being run through the mill, over a century later. Thus far, reality, as always, looks to be firmly on the side of Einstein, with the help of a now stationary defunct Soviet-era rover!

26.03.10: Dude, That’s My Rover!

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.

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2010: A Lookback at the Year in Science and a Look Ahead.

2009 was a year of silent triumph in the world of science. Unmanned spacecraft scoured the solar system, while at home, we saw the first tentative steps signaling a transitioning of manned spaceflight. Indeed, as we pause to enter a new decade, all eyes are on change and what it will bring about for science and the world at large. As we endeavor to keep up with our ceaseless calendar, here’s the Astroguyz down and dirty on happenings in 2009 A.D. and a look ahead;

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09.10.09: An LCROSS Update.

NASA’s LCROSS spacecraft performed its promised “moon crash” early this AM at 0731 AM EDT… all eyes, electronic and otherwise were on Cabeus crater. Unfortunately, no impact was detected here at Astroguyz HQ in Hudson, Florida, although we did have a rising Sun and a brightening sky to contend with. The 10 AM news conference at the Ames research center revealed that the secondary control module of LCROSS did detect the impact in both UV and IR signatures as well as a visual fix on the crater created by the Centaur booster. The controller itself met its fiery end four minutes later. Ground based observatories from Apache Point, New Mexico to the Keck telescopes in Hawaii to observatories in South Korea as well as Hubble, LRO, and Sweden’s ODIN in orbit all gathered data. Its to be seen if any amateur ‘scopes recorded this event. Kitt Peak did record a sodium flash during the event. Of course, the data itself will need to be compiled and analyzed before any meaningful scientific conclusions can be done…I smell a follow up post! Kudos to all that woke up early to look at our nearest neighbor in space, as well as NASA scientists that are no doubt now getting some much needed sleep!

 

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.

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LCROSS target crater announced.

Scientists at NASA have announced the candidate target crater for the LCROSS impactor on October 9th; Cabeus A, a 11km wide polar crater thought to contain the ever- elusive water ice. The Centaur upper stage will slam into the carter floor at 7:30 AM EDT, at which time the Moon will be waning gibbous, and about 70% illuminated, and favoring viewers in the Americas (including Astroguyz HQ!). Contrary to earlier fears, LCROSS has enough fuel to make final maneuvers for impact. Both Keck observatories and LCROSS’s twin, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, as well as a multitude of eager amateur observers will be on hand to witness this rare event!

25.9.9: Water Confirmed on the Moon!

In a stunning press conference on Thursday, NASA revealed conclusive proof for what has been suspected for decades; evidence for water-ice mixed into the lunar surface! The evidence comes from multiple sources over the past decade;

  • Lunar Prospector, which measured a “flux drop” with its neutron spectrometer during its operational phase of 1998-9.

  • The “M-cubed” instrument NASA sent aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 measured tell tale infrared signatures during its recent lunar mission;

  • Cassini (yes, that Cassini!) and Deep Impact both measured signatures highly suggestive of water during their respective outbound passes. Cassini with the VIMS (the Visible Mapping Infrared Spectrometer) and Deep Impact in its extended EPOXY (Extrasolar Planet Observation and Deep Impact Extended Investigation) role.

  • Clementine, which operated in 1994 produced data that also backed up these findings.

Perhaps what was most astounding was the fact that water signatures were found not only at the poles, which has been long suspected, but in the lunar equatorial regions as well! Apparently, water exists in some degree at all latitudes… quantities quoted were of the magnitude of one quart per ton near the poles to a tablespoon per ton of lunar material at the equator. Keep in mind, much of this is mixed in as hydroxyl compound as well as lunar ice. Think a clay-like material. Scientists also pointed out that this is still “drier than the driest terrestrial desert…” clearly, future settlers will have to move tons of lunar regolith to exact a useable amount of H2O… another stunning mechanism discussed for the existence of equatorial water was the possibility of a pseudo “hydrological cycle” on the Moon! This would be driven by gravity, heating, and hydrogen ions from the solar winds bombarding the surface throughout the lunar day. The layer is perhaps a few millimeters thick. Three separate papers were published formalizing these findings yesterday. This will undoubtedly spur on lunar exploration, as well as put all eyes on the Moon for the LCROSS impact on October 9th!

August 2009:News & Notes

- The LRO Photographs the Apollo landing sites: Fans of this space may have noticed the racy lunar pics we ran a week back as part of our From Earth to the Moon review. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter did indeed snap pics of the famous Apollo landing sites last month. These clearly show the hardware left at multiple sites, as well as the base(s) of the Lunar Lander ascent stages, complete with shadow. You can even see the astronaut’s foot trails in the lunar dust! And the LRO hasn’t even entered its cruising orbit yet… expect more great pics to come! [Read more...]

LRO/LCROSS: Back to the Moon.

A quiet storm began last month at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. On June 18th, 2009, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) lifted off towards our nearest neighbor, the Moon. This marks the first of NASA’s unmanned missions that will herald the eventual return of man to the Moon. As this month also marks the 40th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 landing, this return couldn’t be more timely. [Read more...]

Apollo 11 40 Years Later: Did We Really go to the Moon?

 

 

As the 40th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing rolls around this month, its time to address the inevitable. Every so often at a star party, someone asks me if you can see the flag(s) we left on the Moon. When I explain that even the largest pieces of hardware, the base of the lunar landers, were only a scant seven meters across, far below the resolution power of my 8″ reflector, someone inevitably pipes up in the dark; “because we never did go there, that’s really why!”

Of course, I already know that no amount of reasoning will dissuade some people; the outlook is “the government hides everything,” and that tends to be the ultimate answer for any conspiracy. [Read more...]