LCROSS Impacts Moon, Science Data Pending

Article written: 9 Oct , 2009
Updated: 24 Mar , 2012
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UPDATE: The MMTO Telescope on Mount Hopkins in Arizona has video from their observations that, while fuzzy, possibly show a bright plume emerging from the crater. (Further analysis says probably not). The video is here,,

In a bit of an anti-climax, the Centaur second stage, and later the LCROSS spacecraft impacted Cabeus Crater but produced no visible plume. Analysis of navigation telemetry indicated the trajectory was spot on, and the Centaur should have hit the surface to within about 64 meters (210 feet) of the planned target. The video above is from NASA TV, and below if video from the Lick Observatory, whose 36-inch telescope was trained on the Moon’s south pole. They didn’t see anything, as reports from telescopes at Palomar, Arizona, and Mauna Kea also confirmed. But a dim impact would mean regolith ejecta, which scientists say is good because that means it hit more dirt than rocks. Another thing to remember is that science is not always “seen” in visible light. The LCROSS sensors and instruments will provide the best data.

I’ll post more later after the LCROSS press conference at 9 am CDT. In the meantime, enjoy these animations created by Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society from the LCROSS camera as it approached the Moon — very nice!



6 Responses

  1. SteveZodiac says

    hmm, the MMTO video is not much better than the NASA one, I swear I saw some red dots on the IR video but they could just be noise. If there is no plume it might be even more interesting, there could be something like mud in that crater so the spacecraft just went “schlop” when it hit.

  2. SuperKevin says

    I didn’t see anything, hope we get some more detailed video’s soon.

  3. Member

    I’ve got to say they totally botched this as a live event. You’re crashing a spaceship into the freaking Moon! I was hoping to see the ground rushing towards me at top speed, until the craters were terrifyingly close. One last high res view of the lunar surface, and then loss of signal…

  4. Maxwell says

    What we saw was the last frame of data that left the spacecraft, not the last image it took. There is some lag between imaging, processing, and the up link I suspect.

    The problem stems from the size of the payload they were allowed. They would have needed a bigger camera and better processing equipment, which would have added weight and cost.

    Ideally if they hit the pay dirt they were aiming for, there would have been nothing to visually see because the centaur would have slammed into muddy ice and minerals instead of hard rocks.
    So this would appear to be good news.

  5. DavidWheelerPhD says

    Impact plume can be seen in center of video just after it switches to Near IR view.

    Time marker: 1:20 – 1:22

  6. Nexus says

    It’s a shame the seismometers on the Moon are no longer working. The LCROSS impact could have told us a fair bit about the interior.

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