An illustration of LCROSS heading for lunar impact. Credit: NASA
The NASA LCROSS spacecraft, and part of the upper stage of its rocket, are due to deliberately crash into a crater (known as Cabeus) close to the Moon’s south pole on Friday (12:31pm UK time). Scientists are hoping that the huge plumes the impacts create will throw up material that can be studied for signs of water at the lunar pole. The LCROSS impacts come not long after the announcement of the discovery of small amounts of water found over much of the lunar surface. No doubt LCROSS will add something to this surprising result.
Astronomers, both amateur and professional, back on Earth are preparing to observe the impacts too, to add to the data from the LCROSS probe and other space based telescopes observing what happens. If you take an image of the LCROSS plume too you can also help out with a bit of citizen science. The UK isn’t well placed to observe the impact as, unfortunately, it will be daylight here and the Moon will be quite low. However if you have a large telescope (with a mirror diameter of 25cm or greater) it may still be worth a go. See here for more.
For those of us who won’t be able to look for the impact plume ourselves there are a few websites which will be broadcasting information and live feeds as the event unfolds. NASA will be having a live webcast of the event on NASA television with commentary and animations as well as live video from the craft. The remote observatory company SLOOH will also be showing live feeds from two telescopes located in the USA looking for the plume.
So with all that in mind, now all we have to do is wait.