SMART 1 Makes big Impact... Sept 3, 2006 19:43:43 GMT -6
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Sept 3, 2006 19:43:43 GMT -6
Spacecraft strikes Moon with intense flash
The SMART-1 lunar probe crashed into the Moon right on cue on Sunday morning. Mission controllers at the European Space Agency lost contact with the probe at 0542 GMT, indicating that it had struck close to the planned landing site on the lunar “Lake of Excellence”.
“We’re very happy and very excited, the team is rejoicing,” said SMART-1 project scientist Bernard Foing, speaking from the mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
SMART-1 had been orbiting and studying the Moon since late 2005 and would have crashed onto the Moon anyway. So near the end of the mission controllers tweaked its orbit so it would crash on the nearside of the Moon where the impact would be visible to ground-based telescopes.
Early indications are that several ground-based observatories in western North America spotted the impact. Astronomers at the 3.6-metre Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, reported seeing an unexpectedly bright infrared flash. “It was a big surprise – there was a beautiful, very intense flash,” Foing told New Scientist.
The spacecraft hit the Moon at about 7200 kilometres per hour and should have gouged out a crater 5 to 10 metres wide. Scientists hope the impact observations will reveal the chemical make-up of the rock and dust ejected by the impact.
Over the next few days, astronomers will also look for the blanket of ejecta that is settling back down to the lunar surface, possibly covering an area of about 1 square kilometre.
Animation of the event here: www.cfht.hawaii.edu/News/Smart1/anim2.gif
How cool a little machine coould make such a large flash. If we image the impact site...then we can the Apollo sites.