Kaguya impact!

By Phil Plait | June 10, 2009 8:56 pm

The impact of the Japanese Kaguya lunar spacecraft onto the Moon’s surface has been successfully captured by at least one observatory. The Space Coalition Blog reports that observers using the Anglo Australian Telescope snagged the flash of impact, and the image itself can be seen here. I can’t embed the image here since it’s copyrighted (dagnappit) but click the link to see the image sequence, where the flash is clearly visible.

The impact happened at 18:25 GMT on June 10, pretty much right as scheduled.

Here’s a translation of the Kaguya impact news, which oddly translates the name of the probe into "furniture store". The Lunar Picture of the Day has more info as well.

Hopefully more pictures will come in over the next day or so. Stay tuned!

Tip o’ the Whipple Shield to Emily Lakdawalla.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Space

Comments (34)

  1. You know, Dr. BA, I still think I was able to see the Smart-1 impact back in 2006, even though a lot of people told me there’s no way I could have seen it with a humble little 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain.

    Is there any indication of how long the visual “flare” from one of these impacts would be visible? The event I saw was literally an instant, probably less than a tenth of a second.

  2. Well, “kaguya” does mean “furniture store” – “kagu” is furniture, and “ya” is a suffix for shops of different kinds. I guess Google’s dictionaries don’t contain obsolete given names – or if they do their probabilistic approach almost certainly estimates “furniture store” to be more a probable translation than an obscure mythological character.

    I doubt any of the other online translators would get it right. With that said, Google Translate is still the worst of the bunch overall for Japanese.

  3. This burns my buttocks! Did anyone think to ask Mother/Sister Moon if she was cool with this!?

    Just burns my buttocks!

  4. Mount

    The picture is quite uninteresting by itself. Then I realized that I was looking at the resulting explosion from a spaceship crashing into the Moon…

    Fracking Awesome!!!

    Though that video the other day of flying over the Moon’s surface was way more bester.

  5. Flying sardines

    A fiery end to a great mission. Wonder if it made much of a crater?

    Vale Kaguya – a marvellous little spaceprobe and thanks for the memories – & video’s & scientific data. You sure went out with a bang! ;-)

    (Yes, yes, I know no sound in a vacuum, yadda, yadda .. anyhow.)

    @ Michael L. : You sure its this that’s burning your buttocks and not last night’s extra hot curry? ;-)

    @ Mount :

    I agree but different videos with different value. I wonder if the Kaguya onboard camera got any final second before impact shots sent off .. ?

    ———-

    At the last moment the Infinite Improbability drive went on and transformed the ‘Kaguya’ craft into a set of fine chairs, tables, wardrobes,desks, bookshelves and sofas which were scattered all round the point of impact … ;-)

  6. Google Translate = Teh Fail.

  7. #5. Flying Sardines:

    Ah, how did you know! ;)

  8. IVAN3MAN

    Google Translator is made by the same company/publisher of the Hungarian Phrase Book.

  9. MadScientist

    Nicely done. :)

    I won’t feel bad about not seeing the impact myself; the AAT is one huge beast at almost 4m diameter on the primary mirror:

    http://www.aao.gov.au/AAO/about/aat.html

    That’s an awful lot of light collected by that mirror, and given the graininess in the image and so on, I don’t think there’s a hope of seeing anything without at least a video recorder and a fairly large (amateur) telescope.

    One question: Is the bright blip due to energy on impact or is that the bird reflecting sunlight just before it hits?

  10. Steven

    I still feel sorry for the moon. Such a horrible act. To smash that probe into the moons surface. With out asking how she felt as well! Shame on you all!

  11. Gary

    Conspiracy buffs will claim there really is a furniture store on the moon and that NASA is covering this up just like they did with the face on Mars.
    I see new book by Hoagland in this.

  12. Gary,
    Sweden is set to launch their ‘Ikea I’ probe next week.

  13. kikilis

    i want an onboard hd video of the crash! i want it, i want it, i want it, gimme, gimme, gimme!

  14. Kristin Carlsson

    I can see that the image bears a creative commons licence now, so if it was copyrighted before, that’s probably changed. ;)

  15. One of Hermann Oberth’s proposals in the early ’20s was to send a rocket loaded with flash powder to the moon where its impact could be seen by observatories on Earth (no possibility of even imagining telemetry back then). When Fritz Lang made “Die Frau im Mond” (the Woman in the Moon) in 1929 he incorporated this idea into the back story that is shown by “the investors” near the beginning. There is a photograph of the moon’s surface with a tiny flash on it that looks remarkably like those photos you linked to!

    Life imitates art predicting life.

    – Jack

  16. RE: Moon Women

    Ironically, I just returned my copy of Lang’s movie to NetFlix.

    What I really want is the COMPLETE (I think they found missing footage last July or so in S. America – Argentina – somewhere…take me away Google!) Metropolis.

    J/P=?

  17. Dan I.

    One of the comments from that site:

    “Korinna says:
    And did you ask the Moon if it minded having a probe crashed into it? I mean, I’d imagine a female body that’s been without human contact for almost 40 years would practically have an orgasm if poked.

    Seriously, learn about things before you talk about them. ”

    BEST REPLY EVER

  18. MPG

    Furniture store? Do you think they hit bedrock? (ba-dum, tish)

  19. csrster

    Michael – it’s been delayed. They couldn’t get the damn thing assembled in time.

  20. Robert Carnegie

    By the way, what’s this talk about Mars colliding with the Earth sometime (again?) Like a billion years from now? I thought Laplace disposed of instability in the Solar System in the late 18th century, and when you prove something in mathematics, it stays proved. I mean, yeah, general relativity, but evenso.

    What if Mars hits the Moon instead? I suspect still not good for us if we’re still here.

  21. Alan

    19 – and then the damn hex key got rounded.

    That doesn’t look like a bad translation. I once had to work a whole evening with a Japanese speaker to translate a few technical comments on an industrial program.

  22. Ray

    Phil,

    I think the photo could still be posted. Copyright allows for fair use in commentary and/or educational use.

  23. Chris

    The copyright on it is the Creative Commons one and it says you can post the image, as long as you credit the author, where you got it from and don’t make any image altering derivatives (like pasting pictures of the Smurf Village at the impact site).

  24. A Dog Smirk

    Michael L said

    Gary,
    Sweden is set to launch their ‘Ikea I’ probe next week.

    csrster said:

    Michael – it’s been delayed. They couldn’t get the damn thing assembled in time.

    Actually, they got it assembled, but they ended up with a bunch of extra pieces…

  25. Question: What exactly is the cause of the flash? Is that heat from the impact (IR camera), or is there visible light created by impact? It seems unlikely to be onboard fuel.

  26. 16. John Paradox Says: “What I really want is the COMPLETE Metropolis.”

    Both “Frau” and “Metropolis” have been restored by Kino and are available for a quite reasonable $25 or so. Of the two, Metropolis is more famous so it has more special features, but that is partly because Frau, with the restored footage is nearly 3 hours long! There just wasn’t much room for bonus features on the disc.

    I’ve always wondered how they find the lost stuff. When I did “Spaceship Handbook” (which has a chapter on Frau and another on Herrmann Oberth) every reference I found said the early scenes of the movie were destroyed by the Gestapo and no longer exist anywhere. Four years later, Kino releases a restoration of the whole thing that looks like it just came from the UFA film lab!

    For those of you who aren’t into silent movies, these are good ones to start on, but make sure you get restored copies, not the crap that’s been circulating for decades.

    – Jack

  27. @ 16. Jack Hagerty:

    I just watched Frau im Mond the other night. Quite an undertaking. Thankfully Fritz Lang learned to trim a bit. Still, I was amazed at the film’s prescient science. Although I did think it was rather silly the way the rocket accelerated like a bullet. The bottom of that spaceship would be covered with a thick layer of gooey Germans after that launch!

  28. 28. kuhnigget Says: “I did think it was rather silly the way the rocket accelerated like a bullet. The bottom of that spaceship would be covered with a thick layer of gooey Germans after that launch!”

    mega :-)

    I thought that, too, the first time I saw it, but remember that’s a modern objection since we know what real space launch vehicles look like when they take off. What did they have to compare it to at the time? Fireworks and rescue rockets that really do take off like that. Besides, Lang had to show the rocket going really, really fast and fast doesn’t start off slow. Remember that this was a silent film and that Lang was completely visually oriented as a director. It’s the same reason he made the outrageous decision to have a breathable atmosphere on the moon. Otherwise his actors would have to wear space suits (which were hard-hat diving suits) and have their faces hidden. Tough to do a good acting job with no sound and no facial expression!

    – Jack

  29. Trebuchet

    As to the cause of the flash, it appears the impact was very near the terminator. Perhaps what we’re seeing is the sun illuminating a plume of impact debris thrown high enough to get into the light.

  30. @ Trebuchet:

    The Smart-1 impact was in sunlight. I imagine when you smack into something that fast you are going to vaporize what little amount of volatiles are left in the spacecraft, along with anything else that will go poof.

  31. @ 29. Jack:

    Indeed, Lang’s visual sense was remarkable. I suspect he was also influenced by Verne’s ballistic approach to a moon launch.

    I’m forever using examples from Frau im Mond and Metropolis when “debating” the crazy UFO nutters who claim, “That couldn’t be fake! They didn’t have computers then!” Frau has one of the best examples of a foreground miniature in cinema history. And that’s not even getting into the fancy Schüftann shots with the mirrors…just a model stuck in front of the camera!

  32. Really, any Japanese-English translator worth its electrons would notice the abundance of space terminology and drastically increase the probability of any obscure mythological character. Suzaku? If it’s about TV or the modern world, you go with the soap opera of that name. If X-rays or space appear in the article, it’s gonna be about the satellite. Same with Kaguya, Hayabusa, etc. It’s an ISAS thing (which is part of JAXA now, but they still like to name their satellites after mythology).

  33. Spectroscope

    @ # 26. inverse :

    Question: What exactly is the cause of the flash? Is that heat from the impact (IR camera), or is there visible light created by impact? It seems unlikely to be onboard fuel.

    My guess – although I’m not an expert and thus not 100 % sure – is that the flash of light and heat is the result of the kinetic energy of impact. Ie. its the impact itself that creates the flash along with a crater, same as for meteorites.

    I’d also guess that there could also still be some fuel explosion in what little fuel remains even if that’s just fumes …

    @ # 21. Robert Carnegie :

    By the way, what’s this talk about Mars colliding with the Earth sometime (again?) Like a billion years from now? I thought Laplace disposed of instability in the Solar System in the late 18th century, and when you prove something in mathematics, it stays proved. I mean, yeah, general relativity, but even so.What if Mars hits the Moon instead? I suspect still not good for us if we’re still here.

    Ken Croswell posted an article on this planetary orbital instability over the very long term
    back on April 24th 2008 that I emailed to the BA thinking it’d be the ideal thing for him. Yet he never posted on it – unless I just missed it.

    See : http://kencroswell.com/MercuryCrash.html

    This is essentially sort of like Chaos theory as I understand it … but may be wrong.

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