Kaguya's lunar demise

By Phil Plait | June 9, 2009 12:00 pm
Lunar Ranger 8 photo of the Moon before impact

As mentioned last week, on Wednesday the Japanese lunar spacecraft Kaguya will impact the Moon. I don’t know if the impact will be visible using small (meaning maybe 40cm) telescopes, but if you have something like that with a CCD or video camera, you should give it a try!

The Planetary Society has some details if you wish to participate in observing this event. Remember, the impact is is supposed to happen around 18:26 GMT Wednesday night. I’m expecting to be socked in with clouds tomorrow night, but I don’t have the right equipment anyway. But we’ll see… I bet come Thursday morning the web will be buzzing with images! If you are able to get something interesting, post them at the Bad Astronomy Universe Today forum, and link to them in the comments here.

Or, of course, if you have Celestron equipment, submit them to the astrophotography contest!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff

Comments (30)

  1. Ray

    Assuming we can get a good view, what will it sound like from so far away? 😉

  2. Savino

    I don´t how it will sound, but we can always put some sound effects (Death Star destruction could be a nice one) in the back ground when the Kaguya hits the ground!

  3. Are any of the Apollo seismic detectors functioning at all? (My google-fu is weak and didn’t get an answer right off.) I wonder if this will make any detectable vibrations to them (assuming they are still operating after 35 or so years).

  4. Bunk

    18:26 and cloudy? Isn’t that the middle of the afternoon in Colorado anyway? Or are you traveling? For that matter, isn’t it still daylight in Greenwich at 18:26?

  5. Oded

    Ouch, no way of seeing it here, total daylight at 16:26 in the afternoon…

  6. Steven

    It will actually be 11:26 am in Colorado at the time Kaguya crashes (maybe 12:26, not sure about GMT references and their relation to British Summer (aka Daylight savings) Time)

  7. I’ll be out, telescope and camera ready. It’s looking like the weather will be great. I’m a little doubtful that it will be visible for me (it’s quite near the limb) and I’ll only be using a 25cm reflector – but any astronomy is good astronomy. Will post my results, if any.

  8. Greg in Austin

    @Oded, et. al.

    For me, its not that its total daylight that makes it impossible. Its the fact that the moon doesn’t rise until 10:25pm local time (9 hours after the event.)

    The best I can do is go out and take some photos & video tonight, and hope to see a difference tomorrow night.



    @ Larian LeQuella,

    According to Wikipedia, the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) was turned off on 30 September, 1977, due primarily to budgetary considerations. [Figures!] Also, by that time the power packs could not run both the transmitter and any other instrument, and the ALSEP control room was needed for the attempt to reactivate Skylab.

  10. Chris A.

    Er, Phil? The Moon will be below the horizon for the entire U.S. So unless you’re expecting a large burst of neutrinos from the impact, no one on this side of the planet has the right equipment. 😉

    Looks like the ideal spot will be near Perth, Australia, where the Moon will be near the zenith.

  11. 18:30 GMT means 14:30 EST, 13:30 Central, 12:30 Mountain and 11:30 Pacific… will we have a chance of observing the impact? I don’t think so, plus the Moon is too bright these days.

    Ummm… does that turn me into a Kaguya Impact Witness Denialist? :-p

  12. Slowly But Surly

    Any idea where on the Moon it will impact?

  13. @Slowly But Surly Map is available @ http://lpod.wikispaces.com/June+9%2C+2009

    @Gary Ansorge it is part of an experiment. Besides, Moon does have a very thin atmosphere, eventually the orbit would deteriorate and the satellite would crash anyways

  14. Stone Age Scientist

    Hi, Phil, the Japanese will be watching the impact happen on June 11, 3:26 am.

    Btw, I’m a bit confused here. Didn’t you say you live in Colorado? If so, wouldn’t it be high noon in your place when the impact happens? :roll:

  15. Greg in Austin

    Slowly But Surly said,

    “Any idea where on the Moon it will impact?”

    If you follow the link from the Planetary Society, the first sentence says,

    “According to the latest information from the Japanese Space Agency JAXA, the lunar orbiter Kaguya will slam into the Moon at 6:26pm (GMT) on Wednesday, June 10, 2009, at coordinates 63 South, 80 East.

    Or, you can look at the map Phil linked to in his previous post:
    www . kaguya.jaxa.jp/en/communication/KAGUYA_Lunar_Impact_e.htm

    Or, if that’s too much trouble, it means the bottom right.


  16. Ray: If a satellite falls on a moon, and nobody is around, will it make a noise?

  17. Slowly But Surly

    Re Greg (in Austin):

    That last link has a nice graphic showing the impact site marked with a red star (http://www.kaguya.jaxa.jp/image/communication/ImpactMap_E.jpg).

    Of course I would have used a mushroom cloud icon to mark the spot myself 😉


  18. chili

    As I mentioned in the earlier post on this topic and as Chris A pointed out above, it won’t be visible from the Western Hemisphere.

    Even Hawaii won’t get to see it unless the calculations for impact are slightly off or topography are such that it crashes 1 or 2 orbits early (a definite possibility). The timing and location was picked so that Japan and Australia and SE Asia will have the best potential view of this event. Even then, it will require a big scope. The 3.6m scope in Hawaii barely detected Smart-1 when they crashed it in (I believe) 2006.

    Unfortunately so far I haven’t been able to find if there will be any video or live feed from Kaguya as it approaches impact.

  19. Joseph

    All this talk of Lunar what nots hast stirred up a question that periodically comes to my mind.

    A few years ago my ex (still friends) bought me a Lunar Deed for my birthday through ‘The Sovereign Worlds of Hope’.

    I apparently ‘own’ 1 acre of land in area J-5, Quadrant Bravo Trot, Lot Number 058/1520. This is located 003 squares south and 014 squares east of the extreme northwest corner of the recognized Lunar chart. It came with a map that has a small red square in the northern portion of Humorum.

    The whole thing is cool, silly and fun, but the documents seem to take themselves at least semi seriously. They are purported to have been submitted to the U.N. and no rejection of the proposal has ever been received.

    I was wondering what the current discussions, if any, are on how to handle colonizations? If I as a private citizen were to mount with my own monies an expedition to the moon, launch and establish a viable colony/station what, if any, governmental authority of Earth would be legally able to stop it? Presuming I launch from international waters.

    Basically, do I actually own an acre of land on the moon, or can I at least lay some kind of claim to it if I can get there?

    Thanks for entertaining the sillyness,

  20. (1) OBSERVING?
    Observing the event from Europe and the USA — is a big NO, NO, as moon rise and times won’t be suitable.
    (2) SOUND?
    In space, no-one can hear you scream! There’s no atmosphere on the Moon, so sound waves can’t travel. Therefore, no sound will be heard.
    There’s a sucker born every minute….sorry Joseph :-(

    John – Moon Atlas 2009 — for telescope type (click my name for more)

  21. Gary: “Why crash it when they can leave it in orbit?”
    Bad question. They cannot leave it in orbit.

    Joseph: “Basically, do I actually own an acre of land on the moon, or can I at least lay some kind of claim to it if I can get there?”
    No. This is scam.

  22. Joseph

    Did not really expect that the sillyness would prove factual, though a small part of me is nonetheless disappointed by the idea my pretty piece of paper is worthless in the real world. Besides is was the thought of the gift that counted.

    I still wonder about private enterprise going there. If, as I asked, money wasn’t an option and I as a private citizen launched landed and established a viable colony, what national or international laws could be levied against me in an attempt to stop and or evict me from said colony/station/hole in the lunar ground if they wanted to? Are there specific conventions through international law preventing people from doing this?


  23. Paul

    Will they be leaving those HD cameras running for the impact?

  24. Robert Carnegie

    I think there are several science fiction stories intended to deal with the legal status of space colonies, but fewer recently, fewer that I’ve read anyway, which could mean that some recent real treaties have overridden them. Maybe you want to see what a John Grisham or Sonia Sotomayor can do with it. In fact I think [The Galactic Whirlpool] is from 1980, where as backstory a space station declares independence. The Earth economy was bad and I think the spacers’ legal justification was, we’re up here, you’re down there, neener neener. Later generations call it “The Lost Cometary Colony”, I think, and I expect I don’t have to spell out what that means.

    And in [The long habit of living], where an indefinite longevity treatment in ten year instalments exists if you can afford it (the economics are quite interesting in simple terms, as are most of both these stories), there’s a not-generation starship, a slowboat, under construction in space. Two problems, they don’t actually have the longevity treatment and they have a killer mortgage. If in their library they have a copy of [The Galactic Whirlpool], a solution to one of the problems may occur to them…

    Right now the question is, is your acre of Moon insured? Crashing probes into our sister planet seems to be the new international space race gimmick. The money, mooney, shot. Better see if American Interplanetary Group is taking new contracts.

    As it is, expect moon rise tonight at 7pm, 8pm, 8.15, 8.22, and 9.47…

  25. Tom

    Does NASA have a map of sites where the Apollo landings left stuff behind?

    Is it possible to see any of the ‘stuff’ with a small scope (mine is 150mm)?

  26. Less than two hours to go! 😀

    @ Tom (comment #26):

    There are plenty of maps available on the internet that gives the location of the Apollo missions (and other unmanned missions). For example:


    Secondly, no, your telescope won’t be able to see any of the artefacts left at the Apollo landing sites – not even Hubble (or any surface based telescope) can do that.

  27. The impact time has come and gone. Waiting for confirmation on the JAXA website.

    I didn’t end up getting any imaging gear set up – I went out earlier and the wind had picked up quite a bit, the Moon was happily bubbling away. I thought I’d just have a go eyeballing it. Didn’t see anything – though I had to keep readjusting the scope (just left it on the dob mount) and it’s a real pain to keep one eye open on a fairly bright object with minimal blinking for 10 minutes. 😛

  28. John Baxter

    The lack of sound simply “proves” that this too is a moon hoax.

  29. Flying sardines

    Sound no, vibration yes.

  30. Robert Carnegie

    Re actually seeing astronaut stuff left on the Moon:

    They left behind equipment that is kind of like the reflective cell plates mounted on cars and bicycles. So you can shoot a laser beam at that part of the Moon and you get a measurable reflection. Since your laser beam hits an area measured in kilometres, it isn’t a very bright reflection, relatively, but it’s there.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar