October 8, 2009

LCROSS Lunar Impact

The Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission was designed to find out more about the presence of water on the Moon. The biggest component of the LCROSS mission will be to perform an impact on the lunar south pole, which will take place tomorrow, October 9, at 4:31:19 a.m. (PDT). The information gained from the mission will be important, especially because of the recent findings of water molecules on the Moon.

LCROSS will launch a heavy impactor, Centaur, into the lunar crater Cabeus. The crater, near the South Pole of the Moon, is permanently shadowed. The impact will create a debris plume rising above the Moon, which the LCROSS spacecraft can then study, hopefully revealing valuable information about the presence of water ice in the crater. Then the spacecraft itself, after sending the date back to Earth, will impact the lunar surface, creating a second debris plume.

The materials in the plume will be studied by visible and infrared spectrometers as they are broken down by exposure to sunlight. Additionally, both debris plumes will be visible from Earth, with telescopes at least as large as 10 - 12 inches, primarily in North America. To get further details about where the impact will be visible, visit this NASA page. Additionally, the impact can be witnessed through public outreach programs, or through NASA TV.

Image: NASA

Astronomy and Space Celebrates International Year of Astronomy 2009.

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