June 9, 2009

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Impact Alert

Pete Lawrence image annotated by Jim Mosher

If you live in Asia and Australia you have a rare opportunity for an observing adventure tomorrow. On June 10th at 18:30 UT the Japanese lunar orbiter Kaguya (originally called Selene) will end its two years of science with a final impact experiment. The location of the impact is very near the southeast limb close to 80ºE, 63ºS. This area will be in shadow as the Moon has just passed full, but easy to find just beyond the terminator south of Janssen. Visual observations and video monitoring may be rewarded with a bright flash or (possibly) a cloud of ejecta that rises into sunlight as the large spacecraft rams into the surface at 6000 km/hr. It is impossible to predict accurately what will be seen, so perhaps on Thursday an LPOD contributor can show the world what an impact looks like. Jim Mosher has used LTVT and an earlier image by Pete Lawrence with very similar phase angle to show where to look. But this location and time might change; Japanese scientists will use orbital tracking to refine the place and time by issuing an update at 01:00 UT on June 10. There is also a possibility that Kaguya might impact 1 or 2 orbits (2 or 4 hours) earlier - it is very close to the surface, and both unexpected topographic highs and gravity anomalies may hasten its demise. Observers in Hawaii should definitely check the 01:00 update to see if they should observe, and lucky imagers in Australia, New Zealand, and from Japan to India should check for any changes. If you observe or image any effects of the impact immediately let me know and there will be a special LPOD to announce your observations. I wish you all clear skies!

Chuck Wood

Technical Details
Pete's image was taken on 2006 Aug 12 at 00:15 UT.

Related Links
Rükl plate 75
Jim's very informative Kaguya impact webpage
Another map of the impact area.

Yesterday's LPOD: Spider Monster

Tomorrow's LPOD: Color of History


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