Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA Goddard visualization team previews lunar impact

13.10.2009
At 7:30 a.m. EDT on October 9, a two-ton rocket body will slam into a crater near the moon's south pole. By studying the resulting plume of gas and dust, scientists hope this grand experiment will confirm the presence of ice in permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles.

The event is the highlight of NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission. The LCROSS spacecraft flies behind its empty upper stage, which is targeted to strike the floor of Cabeus crater. LCROSS will image the impact and provide direct measurements of the plume before it also plunges into the lunar surface. With LCROSS gone, further measurements of the cloud depend on ground-based observatories around the world.

"This is a completely unique mission that will excavate two large holes dozens of meters across on the lunar surface. It will give us composition measurements we wouldn't otherwise be able to get," said Tim McClanahan, a scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

McClanahan's modeling of the moon's permanently shadowed regions, initially done to support the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND) instrument aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), underscored a problem for ground-based follow-up of the LCROSS impact. "We realized that ground observers would have difficulty identifying the location," he said. "It's near the lunar south pole, where illumination is poor and the ability to distinguish nearly edge-on craters is problematic. On top of that, LCROSS will hit the crater floor, but we can only see its rim from Earth."

To provide the detailed information ground-based telescopes needed, McClanahan approached Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio (SVS). The goal was to find a "sweet spot" where factors such as lunar topography, lighting from the sun, and the view from Earth provided the earliest, highest-contrast view of the rapidly changing plume.

"Visualization aided two aspects of the LCROSS mission," said Ernie Wright at the SVS. "It helped us understand how visible the plume will be from Earth and whether the targeted terrain was flat and in shadow."

The project prefers a crater floor because slopes tend to be rocky, whereas lighter, fluffier materials fall to the lowest elevations. "LCROSS scientists want to send up a debris cloud as high as they can," Wright explained, "so they want to hit these light materials."

Scientists think that hydrogen detected in lunar soil by several instruments, including LEND, may be either icy leftovers from ancient comet impacts or accumulated from the solar wind, a stream of particles flowing from the sun. Whatever its source, scientists assume hydrogen collects in low polar elevations where the sun never shines. This dictates an impact in the shadowed portion of a crater floor.

On September 11, LCROSS mission planners announced that they had targeted a smaller, more northerly crater named Cabeus A. But later that month, analyses of new data from instruments aboard LRO, together with archival measurements from NASA's Lunar Prospector mission of the late 1990s, indicated that the larger Cabeus crater was a better bet.

"The sweet spot for ground-based telescopes lies about two kilometers above the floor of Cabeus," Wright explained. "There, sunlight streaming through a depression in the crater rim will light up the plume while the rest of the crater remains in shadow."

Francis Reddy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems
08.12.2016 | Nagoya Institute of Technology

nachricht Will Earth still exist 5 billion years from now?
08.12.2016 | KU Leuven

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Closing the carbon loop

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D

08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>