LCROSS: the aftermath

A post by Chris RowanI was actually kept away from my computer during the LCROSS impact yesterday, but it turned out that there really wasn’t much to see on any of the live feeds. However, the impact of the upper stage ‘bullet’ showed up nicely on LCROSS’s infra-red camera:

LCROSS infrared image showing flash from impact of Centaur stage
image courtesy of Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society Blog

Emily also reports that the LCROSS spectrometer definitely registered something above the impact site, although we’ll have to wait a bit before we hear whether that something included the hoped-for water.
Thinking about it, seeing anything in the visual spectrum was was always going to be tricky: the impact was deliberately aimed at a spot in deep shadow , so debris would have to be thrown up pretty high for sunlight to illuminate it. Indeed, judging from what I caught of the post-mission press conference, none of the scientists leading the mission seemed particularly surprised by the lack of visual fireworks. I suppose that we were all somewhat spoilt by the pictures from Deep Impact.

flash from Deep Impact impact
Image from NASA

On the other hand, none of the publicity about this mission over the last few days seems to have gone out of it’s way to downplay expectations of a big kaboom (I was a little disappointed, and I was only expecting something on the lines of a little-to-middling puff). Public engagement is obviously a good thing, but engaging people labouring under a false assumption could easily backfire.

Categories: geology, planets

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