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Thursday, May 28, 2009

 

Watching Things Crash on the Moon

Watching for Lunar meteor impacts has been activity of a dedicated band of amateurs. Generally, it's unrewarding, there is lots of nothing happening. Even during favourable meteor showers, only a very few impacts are seen. However, there is now another opportunity for amateurs to see an impact of a different kind.

The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) Mission will slam a large impactor into a permanently shadowed crater of the Moon, while its dedicated satellite and a bevy of Earth and ground based telescopes watch, looking for signs of water in the impact ejecta. Earth bound observers won't see the impact, but very well may see the plume of dust and gas that will be blasted out by the impact.

the LCROSS team are calling for amateur observers to watch the impact site as well. I love it when they say:
...the Centaur impact plume may be visible through amateur-class telescopes with apertures as small as 10 to 12 inches.

(Looks at 8" scope, sighs). If you are interested, the current launch and impact times are in a June 17-21 window.

A launch on June 17 results in an impact on October 8 at 10:30 UT.
A launch on June 18 results in an impact on October 9 at 11:30 UT.
A launch on June 19 results in an impact on October 10 at 12:30 UT.
A launch on June 21 results in an impact on October 11 at 13:30 UT.

There is an LCROSS Wiki with more information on observing this impact, maps and impact geometries, and you can stay up yo date with the discussion group.

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