Afternoon InquisitionScienceSkepticism

AI: It’s a Marvelous Night for a Moon Crash

Man, I just love crashes and explosions. And NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite is scheduled to crash its Centaur upper-stage rocket into the lunar surface at 7:31 a.m. EST tomorrow morning. Four minutes later, the LCROSS itself will follow, diving through the debris plume caused by the first crash, collecting and relaying data back to Earth before crashing into the Cabeus crater near the moon’s south pole. The idea is to find the presence of water in the moon’s soil.

The Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter are in position to watch, and photograph, the collisions. And hundreds of telescopes on Earth also will be focused on the two plumes.

NASA is encouraging amateur astronomers to join the watch party. If you don’t have a telescope, or you live in areas where daylight will obscure the viewing, NASA TV will broadcast the crashes live. Coverage begins at 6:15 a.m. EST Friday.

How many amateur astronomers in the house? Will you be watching? Or is that cutting into your beauty sleep?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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58 Comments

  1. My amateur astronomy long ago was reserved for spur of the moment observations on clear nights. Trying to catch specific events is a recipe for rain far more than chance would suggest.

  2. Damn. How the heck am I supposed to see that? Maybe I should fly out to CA in the mountains somewhere and watch.

    I wonder, if watching this thru a telescope, will the impact look similar to the way Wile E. Coyote hits the bottom of a valley when falling from a cliff?
    A tiny little *PFFFT*

  3. I would love to watch it with my scope, but it is very likely to be raining, and that’s ten minutes after local sunrise anyway, so any debris plume would likely have been obscured by daylight anyway. :(

  4. 730 am E is 430 am My Time… so… I will probably be asleep.

    But I might just go peek outside for a second or two… depends on how much fog we are getting… I live on the CA coast.

    (The edit button just helped me spell “depends” with the proper number of “e”s. Awesome!)

  5. I try to catch ISS flyovers as often as possible but I’ll be in bed hopefully fast asleep at that hour (3:15 PST) if I have anything to say about it. So don’t tell my husband – OK?

  6. It’ll be daylight here. Sigh. I’ll have look back on fond memories of the ISS crossing and Hale Bopp. I think it was Hale Bopp. Maybe Schumacher Levy?

    Memory. An increasingly illusory faculty, at least in me.

  7. I’m almost NEVER up at that time but I will be tomorrow morning. I’ll set my telescope up outside this evening so I don’t have to fiddle with it much in the morning. It’s not very big so hopefully it’ll be powerful enough to view something. If nothing else I’ll also be streaming NASA TV on my laptop so I’ll see it there.

  8. I logged onto Facebook this morning, and saw the following from an old high school friend:

    NASA wants to drop a 2 ton bomb on the moon tomorrow. Meditate or pray to make this a non-event…

    Followed by responses such as:

    WTF?!? That could have major reprecusions on tides and who knows what else! This is a very bad idea!

    The sad thing is that he and I competed to see who could get better grades in science classes.

    Edit: Just because I can. COOL!

  9. @Kaylia_Marie: Only sometimes. I usually came out on top. But it was always close.

    Wait… but when NASA doesn’t drop a 2 ton bomb tomorrow… then… won’t that be proof that prayers and meditations work?

    Yeah, and it’ll have nothing to do with that engineer who didn’t tighten that nut or something!

  10. And in answer to the AI, my house is surrounded by woods so I probably won’t likely get a good view of the moon. And it’s WAY to early to go any further than my porch.

    So I think I’ll just get up at my usual time, make my coffee, then find the videos on the net.

    If my daughter were older, I’d probably do differently. But she’s only 4, and can’t even look through the telescope without moving it.

  11. We get up at 4:30 Sam, to get the kiddioes rousted. But living in Houston, you know we have no sky and I gave up my 12″ reflector when we moved back here from out in the booonies, where we did have sky. I’ll be watching it on NASA TV.

    aww what the heck gotta try the edit button too.

  12. @Yossarian: Hmmn, good find. Positively hilarious.

    Also, I notice how much the “chevron” looks like the Starfleet insignia from Star Trek. Coincidence?

    What confused me though was, how could NASA bring back alien technology from the moon when they faked the moon landing in the first place? I guess some of these conspiracy theorists can’t even keep their own theories straight.

  13. @Peregrine:

    I was thinking the same thing. They even use some of the moon-hoax ‘evidence’ – like the ‘missing’ crosshatches on moon photos, etc.

    Of course, if countries racing to the moon were to do so because of some alien technology, to which this symbol is related – why would they be advertising the fact? Shouldn’t they .. I don’t know…. AVOID USING IT?

  14. Here in Denver it will still be dark enough so me and a buddy are going to give it a try. The only downside is the weather might be a bit problematic; 40% chance of snow and early morning fog probable. I’ll get up about 2:30am and have a look outside; if I see stars, we go, if I see clouds, my ass goes back to bed! If you go to the LCROSS website, they are recommending a minimum 10″ scope, which I have, but we did some calculations and this event, even at high magnification, is going to be really small. Only a few arcseconds high. I’m going to try and get some pictures so cross your fingers for me…oh wait, this is a skeptic site…luck is not a factor :)

  15. I was planing on borrowing one of the 10-inch Dobsonians from the local observatory whilst the director but a camera on the main telescope (a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain), but unfortunately for both of us the forecast is for very solid clouds until well after the impact.

  16. @Tanstaafl56: I think that your NASA buddy has the logos a little mixed-up. The “chevron” is part of what we call the meatball logo. The worm logo is the NASA acronym spelled in groovy, 60’s looking typeface.

    I think that even worse than the people who think we have secret alien technology are the ones who think that the LCROSS impacts could possibly throw the moon out of orbit and wreck our climate.

  17. considering I will be at work when it hits, I will have to watch it on NASA TV. I kind of feel sorry for you mac people out there, as apparently NASA hasn’t bothered to move into the cross platform compatibility mode and is still using an embedded Windows Media Player, but only kind of.

  18. No such luck, I’m afraid. I’ll be up at that hour, but I have no telescope or decent binoculars. :-(

    Good FSM!? Someone actually is afraid becuse we’re dropping an empty booster on the moon? There’s been at least a dozen hard-landings from the Russian and US space programs, not to mention …was it Japan(?) also did that.

  19. Oh, I know. I was actually already in my cube in the cube farm by the time it hit. I was more responding to the posts further up the thread.

    Since I have no ‘scope, I figured that whatever NASA showed would be far better than anything I could see on my own.

  20. I usually don’t post, I just read what all of you wonderful folks write, but I just want to say that I am SO glad this site is here. I heard so much of that “ZOMG DON’T BOMB THE MOON!!!111one!!1” (Thank you Skept-artist, lol) crap last night from people I know who otherwise seem normal, that I had to escape to somewhere rational, and this was the place. Thanks you guys. But that stuff made me very sad too.

  21. @Mark Hall,
    I think there are benefits to bombing the moon, mainly that Terrorists should understand that we’re bombing the moon mainly because we can, we have no problem bombing them. If we find no water, at least we’ll send a message.

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