Image of future LCROSS lunar impact site

By Phil Plait | September 26, 2009 11:34 am

The spot where NASA’s LCROSS spacecraft will impact the Moon on October 9 has been released by astronomers with the European Space Agency:


The impact site is the crater Cabeus-A, the largish crater to the left of center. The resolution of the image is about 50 meters/pixel, and the field of view is about 50 km (30 miles) across. The crater is near the Moon’s south pole, and the bottom is permanently in shadow. See the shadow across the crater? As the Moon spins and orbits the Earth, that shadow never lifts, but instead moves around the crater floor like the hand of a celestial clock.

We know there is water all over the Moon in small quantities, but is there a lake of frozen water under the crater’s dusty floor? When LCROSS impacts, we may find out.

This image was taken by SMART-1, an ambitious ESA spacecraft that orbited the Moon for nearly two years. Its ultimate fate? It too impacted the lunar surface in September 2006. While that impact wasn’t meant to hunt for water, it did kick up some dust, and made a flash bright enough to be detected from Earth. Its mission was a big success, and its demise was a harbinger for things to come on October 9.

Image credit: B.Grieger, B.H. Foing & ESA/SMART-1/ AMIE team

MORE ABOUT: Cabeus-1, LCROSS, smart-1

Comments (20)

  1. papa_vova

    “and made a flash bright enough ” link not working
    …pls remove this one after all is OK )

  2. Did we ask permission this time?

  3. papa_vova, I had a typo in the URL, It’s fixed now, thanks!

  4. Merijn Vogel

    As my wife said: “Now *that* thing is going to a place where the sun never shines!” (sorry mrs. i just *had* to post that 😉

  5. If you look very closely, you can see a crowd of Selenite children smiling and waving at the camera.

  6. Big Steve

    Two questions…..could you show or direct me to a site that shows a lunar map or what the moon will look like the day of the impact and the approximate site. I would like to set up a telescope and watch. Also is there a site that will have a count down going to we can know when to look?

  7. vg

    I was watching a video on Youtube titled “Return to the moon” about the impact. Can you see impact using a telescope?

  8. It would be a bummer if that crater is the only place on the moon that has any significant concentration of water, and LCROSS blasts it all away.

  9. Ryan

    Is that the Apple logo?

  10. @ VG:

    I’m pretty certain I saw the Smart-1 impact through my 8″ celestron. You have to really keep your eye to the scope, tho, as the flash was only a fraction of a second in duration.

  11. Petrolonfire

    @ 8. Jay Freedman Says:

    It would be a bummer if that crater is the only place on the moon that has any significant concentration of water, and LCROSS blasts it all away.

    Hey what are the odds of that! 😉

    Besides we ‘ve already found that there is water on the Moon so we can probably safely stop looking now anyway.

    Still who needs an excuse to crash a spaceprobe and create celestial fireworks anyway?! 😉

  12. Flying sardines

    @ 2. Arnold Jamtart Says:

    Did we ask permission this time?

    Yeah, actually we did. :roll:

    Someone tell the looney astrologer lady that NASA got a top pyschic to telepathically ask the spirit of the Moon goddess. Selene (her full name is Selene Luna Artemis) told her telepathically back that “yeah that’s fine – she hasn’t had contact with Earthmen in ages – not for forty years and welcomes their playful pats!” Selene also says “as a female spirit and, as the yin to Earths yang, I yearn for contact and for the fusion of Humanity and Moon spirit – and, please looney astrologer lady, stop telling me, Ms Moon goddess, who I am and what I’m supposed to want!” Oh & the Moon goddess also said astrology is utter humbug too & all she’s ever influenced is the tides! 😉

    @ 10. kuhnigget Says:

    @ VG: I’m pretty certain I saw the Smart-1 impact through my 8″ celestron. You have to really keep your eye to the scope, tho, as the flash was only a fraction of a second in duration.

    Are any amateur astronomers here able & willing to try & record – ie. video – the impact and share it with us? Maybe via the BAUT astrophotography forum or through the good Dr Phil Plait?

  13. Spectroscope

    Great photo & looking forward eagerly to the LCROSS impact.

    I wonder how different this area will look after the impact – do y’all think we’ll be able to see the resulting crater?

    Another question for everyone:

    Is it possible that the same situation recently discovered with water or hydroxl being present in the lunar dust could also apply to Mercury? Might Mercury also have water or hydroxl in *its* dust seeing as these two worlds are quite similiar in nature?

    If so, could we detect this hypothetical Mercurian water / hydroxl either from Earth via spectroscopy form ground-based telescopes or the HST or with, say, the Messenger & Bepi-Columbo spacecraft? Are the latter two craft able to do the same observations as made by the Chandrayaan-1, Deep Impact & Cassini spaceprobes to detect “dusty water”?


    PS. I asked this same question back on the “Water on the Moon – yup its real”* thread but, alas, that was fairly late on the comments (comment # 57 there) so didn’t get answered by anyone. Perhaps, I’m guessing, because many people may not have seen it. I hope it is okay to ask this again here (my apologies if not) a bit further upstream in the thread because I’d really love to hear an answer on this speculation.

    * Link to that thread is:

    in case it helps..

  14. I doubt there is any vast quantities of water on the moon. More likely from comets or the like. The moon was a hot lava ball before it cooled, with no H20…or at least no chance for any to stay, way back when. But, let them get their hopes up…they’re going to need some place to live after we (or nature) destroy the earth.


  15. Gary Ansorge

    I can see the adverts now: “Get your fresh LunaCorp H2O. Only $250.00/liter. Accept no substitutes.”

    With HO and H2O in concentrations of .1% to 1%, recovering that H2O is likely to require something like a Uranium isotope mass separator. Good thing we’ve already done that R&D,,,

    Ah, water, so good to have. Now maybe that Lunar property I bought a decade ago will prove to be viable.

    GAry 7

  16. vg

    @kuhnigget, thanks for the clarification.

    @Flying sardines, really a good idea. May be someone can post it on youtube.

  17. Gary Ansorge

    13. Spectroscope

    There was some speculation that because the HO and H2O were only in the top most layer of dust, it might be deposition from the solar wind. If that proves to be the case, then it IS possible there will be evidence of such on Mercury.

    GAry 7

  18. Spectroscope

    @17 Gary Ansorge : Thanks! :-)

  19. Bob

    Someone correct me – but is it really a good idea to smash things into suspected sources of water?

    Wouldn’t that contaminate that water?

    What is the probe powered with? Plus, why would you want to blow away that source of water, if any, by this collision?

    I would think they could do the survey without actually, you know, destroying it….

  20. Dusty

    Looks like it is going to hit the spot I own. How do I get compensation from NASA for ruining my lunar vacation property? I’ve got the title right here. Do I have to clean up the debris and fill in the hole at my expense? Not to mention what it is going to do to my patio furniture and putting green.


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