RETURN OF THE MARS HOAX: There's an email going around claiming that Mars will look as big as a full Moon on August 27th. Could this possibly be true? Find out in today's story from Science@NASA.
KAGUYA IMPACT UPDATE: The nominal impact time (June 10 @ 1830 UT) has passed. So far we have received no reports of a flash or debris plume observed by telescopes on Earth. Stay tuned for updates.
IMPACT ALERT: Japan's Kaguya spacecraft will crash into the Moon on Wednesday, June 10th, at around 1830 UT. The timing favors telescopic observers in east Asia, Australia and New Zealand, who may be able to see a brief flash of light or a plume of debris rising from the Moon's southeastern limb close to selenographic coordinates 80ºE, 63ºS. The expected impact point is marked by a red dot in this image from astrophotographer Pete Lawrence:
Click on the image for a more detailed view.
Kaguya is a big spaceship. It masses 2,900 kg and will hit the Moon at an oblique angle traveling approximately 6,000 km/hr. Whether it tumbles and bounces along the lunar surface or runs headlong into some towering crater wall, no one can say. Clues to the end of Kaguya will come on June 10th in the form of an explosive flash (or lack thereof) and high-res images of the crash site taken by future lunar orbiters.
The impact is not accidental. The Japanese space agency, JAXA, has long planned to end the mission in this fashion. Kaguya has been in lunar orbit since Oct. 2007; it has searched dark craters for evidence of frozen water, mapped the moon's gravitational field, and taken some of the all-time prettiest pictures of Earth's satellite.
Farewell, Kaguya! Links for observers: #1: #2, #3.
LUNAR OCCULTATION: Over the weekend, an unscheduled lunar occultation occurred over Brisbane, Australia. Amateur astronomer Stephen Mudge was outdoors for an stroll and had the presence of mind to snap this picture:
"I came across this rare astronomical event on the evening of June 7th. The nearly-full Moon was neatly covered by a native brushtailed possum wandering along the telephone wires on my street."
Brushtailed possums are nocturnal marsupials common throughout Australia. Their habitat ranges widely from eucalyptus forests to urban vegetable gardens. The furry creatures have even been known to break and enter kitchens for a midnight snack. Astronomy is hungry work!
"This possum seems to be enjoying the view of the rising Moon," notes Mudge, "while its tail nicely matches that of Scorpius in the background!"
more moon shots: from Martin Stojanovski of Rudine, Macedonia; from John Stetson of Sebago Lake, Maine; from Stephen W. Ramsden of Atlanta, Georgia; from Elias Chasiotis of Sounio, Greece;
2009 Noctilucent Photo Gallery
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