Friday, October 9, 2009

LCROSS not meant as entertainment

Behind that brightly lit mountain the Centaur-stage impactor of the LCROSS experiment slammed into the permanently-darkened interior of Cabeus as Caltech captured the scene using modern adaptive optics now part the legendary 200" Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory, San Diego County, California. (Hat Tip to Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society) [Antonin Bouchez/Caltech].

Palomar Observatory Images of Cabeus

If you were counting on a mushroom cloud, this morning, you were setting yourself up for disappointment. No one was trying to 'bomb the Moon,' either.

Impacts like the one that blew out a crater perhaps a meter deep and thirty meters across when LCROSS struck the coldest, darkest interior of crater Cabeus, this morning, happen on the Moon frequently. What's the matter? Haven't you ever seen something hit the Moon before?

It's important to remember the LCROSS experiment wasn't meant as fireworks or entertainment. The event's results were detected, as planned, and a visible or nearly invisible plume both will help answer the questions this experiment was designed to resolve, but patience is needed as analysts tease the real information out from the chatter.

For perspective (and because I really have wondered what this looked like for a long, long time) take a closer look below, at the very bright, very fresh crater created by another upper stage, impact, this one from Apollo 14's Saturn V, spotted in September by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and released by the LROC News System, yesterday.

The event that created this blister took place almost 39 years ago.

It was detected by seismometers left on the Moon by Conrad & Bean (Apollo 12, 1969) when it happened, and it rang the Moon like a bell for three full hours after it happened.

(A Comparison between the size of this impact and that of LCROSS is discussed, HERE.)

We've known, within meters, exactly where this crater was all that time, in southeast Oceanus Procellarum where the Sun shines two weeks out of each lunar day but this is the first time anyone has actually seen it. (These things take time!)

The big picture shows a lot of bright boulders in the area. Would we actually see twisted wreckage transformed into graffiti if we were to stroll through this man-made crater?

Approximately 70 square meters of Oceanus Procellarum, centered near 8.09°S, 338.98°E, swept up in an uncalibrated image by the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) on-board Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), Sept. 8, 2009. The fresh crater was formed by the directed impact of Apollo 14's Third Stage, Feb. 4, 1971. [LROC NAC-M107049825RE: LROC/NASA/GSFC/ASU]


Elias said...

First Paragraph: "...interior of Cabeus as Palomar Observatory on Mt. Wilson used adaptive optics to capture the scene from California."

Isn't Palomar ON Mt. Palomar? = )

Daniel Fischer said...

Actually it's called "Palomar Mountain" - there is no "Mount Palomar". Otherwise a fine essay which I've already advertised widely.

Joel Raupe said...

Yes, I don't know why I wrote Mount Wilson. Must have still had the Station Fire on my mind.

Hale is in the Palomar range, 90 miles from the Hooker 100" on Mount Wilson, along with the solar telescope there. And the telescopes in the Palomar are called the Palomar Observatory.

Appreciated the proof. "The secretary had the week off, along with the maid."


Unknown said...

Thanks for the informational blog and pictures.