NASA Book Available For Visually Impaired To Learn About Moon

NASA has released a new book for visually impaired people to experience the wonders of the moon. Called “Getting a Feel for Lunar Craters,” the 17-page book features Braille and tactile diagrams of the lunar surface, craters and peaks.

The book was created and funded by NASA’s Lunar Science Institute, or NLSI, at Moffett Field, Calif. The author is David Hurd, a space science professor at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in Edinboro,PA.

“This book is one giant step for humankind, making lunar science,” NLSI Director Yvonne Pendleton said. “NASA is committed to the development of resources to bring lunar science into the world of those who cannot see.”

To obtain a free copy of “Getting a Feel for Lunar Craters,” visit: http://lunarscience.nasa.gov/tactile

 NLSI is a virtual organization that enables collaborative, interdisciplinary research in support of NASA lunar science programs.The institute uses technology to bring scientists together around the world and comprises competitively selected U.S. teams and several international partners. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington fund NLSI, which is managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. For more information about the NLSI, visit: http://lunarscience.nasa.gov

Biggest Full Moon in 20 Years!

Stargazers are in for a big treat this weekend!

On Mar. 19 the full moon will brighten the night sky as the biggest full moon seen in almost two decades.  The moon will be at perigee, its closest point to Earth — only 221,565 miles (356,575 km) away.


The moon’s orbit around Earth is not circular — it’s elliptical.  One part of the orbit,
the perigee, is closer to the Earth than the other, the apogee. The image is NOT to
scale — the eccentricity of the moon’s orbit has been exaggerated.

The last time the full moon coincided with an extreme perigee was Mar. 8, 1993 when it was a distance of 221,536 miles (356,528 km) from the Earth.

This Saturday night, the moon will appear 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter in the sky than lesser full moons — when the moon is farthest from the Earth. But to the casual observer, it may difficult to tell the difference.

For the best viewing — and dependent upon clear skies, of course– look when the moon is near the horizon at sunset. The orbital geometry combined with the moon’s location near the horizon, put in scale next to buildings and trees, will combine to produce an awesome sight.


Full moon over space shuttle Endeavour in 2008.

If you take some great images of this weekend’s full moon, we’d love to feature them on the Marshall Space Flight Center Facebook page! http://www.facebook.com/nasa.marshall#!/nasamarshallcenter

The Moon and Its Core


Dr. Renee Weber, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, will participate in a live video webcast on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. CST. Weber will discuss new research which definitively identified details about the moon’s core, as announced in a January issue of SCIENCE magazine.



Details about the findings from Dr. Weber’s team can be found at these two links:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6015/309
https://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/news/releases/2011/H-11-004.html


Click the link below to sign up to participate in a live video webcast (and submit questions in advance):

http://www.lpi.usra.edu/mymoon/


Snooping on the Neighbor


The moon is Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor. It’s the brightest object in the night sky and has profoundly influenced the course of human civilization. For early humans, the moon provided lighting for hunting and defined when crops should be planted and harvested. Markings of lunar phases appear in cave paintings in France and defined the arrangement of Stonehenge.


A few facts about our neighbor:

  • At the moon’s closest distance, it would take 135 days to drive there in a car going 70 mph.
  • The moon has almost the same surface areas as the continent of Africa.
  • Our moon is inching away from Earth at a rate of 1.5 inches per year. (Was it something we said?)
  • The lunar maria or “seas” were formed by ancient lunar volcanic activity.
  • Because there’s no air on the moon, sound can’t travel above the surface — so if a tree fell on the moon, it wouldn’t make a peep. How the tree got there would be another story…

Hello, Neighbor!


Hello! Thanks for visiting our moon missions blog. We’re expanding the blog focus from two moon missions to relating information about the moon as “Our Nearest Neighbor.” New posts will focus on observations of the moon, ongoing studies of Apollo era data, flybys and investigations  from Discovery and Lunar Quest Missions — these observations and missions continue contributing to our knowledge base — in this space we will share what we persist to uncover about “our nearest neighbor.”


Apollo 8 image of the moon. (NASA)

Stay tuned as we continue to challenge the human spirit through exploration and discovery. Meanwhile, learn about some exciting and recent revelations about the moon’s Earth-like core: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moonmars/features/lunar_core.html

Full Moon Doesn't Phase Orionids Viewing

Despite the fullness of the moon, the all-sky meteor camera at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., managed to detect a decent number of Orionid meteors this October — 41 in total! Thesemeteors, produced by debris from Halley’s Comet, travel at 146,000miles per hour and burn up high in the atmosphere. Most Orionids werefirst detected around an altitude of 68 miles, and completely burned upby a height between 58 and 60 miles above the ground.

Shown below are two Orionid meteors observed on Oct. 21, 2010.  The shower radiant, located near the constellation Orion, is easily visible.

 

The Orionids peaked on October 21 when the all-sky camera detected 13 double station Orionid meteors.

Images courtesy of Danielle Moser, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Tiny Asteroid 2010 TG19 Approaches Earth

Using the Marshall Space Flight Center 0.5 meter telescope in New Mexico, NASA astronomer Rob Suggs captured this view of the tiny asteroid 2010 TG19 as it made its way among the stars of the constellation Pegasus.

Taken before sunup on Oct. 15, the animated sequence shows the movement of the asteroid, then 4.25 million miles away from Earth, over 45 minutes. Only 75 yards across, 2010 TG19 is very faint at magnitude +18 , which is near the limit of the telescope. It will continue to approach during the next few days, finally coming within 268,500 miles of our planet, or almost as close as the moon, at noon EDT on Friday, Oct. 22.

Courtesy of Rob Suggs, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

A New Look at an Old Neighbor


We have yet to uncover the full wealth of scientific information the moon holds. It at the cornerstone of understanding the birth and evolution of Earth and other planets, therefore we need to explore it.

The moon looks very unchanging and calm in the night sky and is rarely thought of as an active planetary body. What most people don’t know, is the moon receives LCROSS-sized impacts about once a week — that’s more than 50 impacts a year! It also is interesting to note that it experiences thousands of  “moonquakes” each year and releases energy by heat flow, electromagnetic conduction and tides from Earth and the Sun.


Moon’s Copernicus Crater — Lunar Orbiter Photo 1966 (Credit: NASA)

LCROSS is unique compared to the natural barrage of material impacting the moon because it’s designed to know exactly where and when it will impact — the Cabeus crater near the moon’s south pole.


 Craters of interest around the lunar south pole. LCROSS is targeting Cabeus A.
(Credit: NMSU/MSFC Tortugas Observatory)

Little is known about the moon’s permanently shadowed regions and we may find some unexpected results from this unique mission. The crater is more than two miles deep and may be one of the coldest places in the solar system. Scientists believe it has been void of sunlight for billions of years and represents an optimal location for determining if water ice exists on the moon.

Teams of scientists, engineers and astronomers across NASA, industry and academia are working tirelessly to advance space exploration and knowledge of our solar system with this mission. Now that LCROSS is two days away from impact, they still have a lot of work ahead of them. For example, they will observe the impacts, gather images of them, measure the quantity of water and identify its form and study the lunar soil.

This exciting mission promotes participatory exploration from the professional and amateur astronomy community, students and the general public.

During impact, at least twenty-five Earth-based observatories will be aimed at the Cabeus crater to witness the moment the lunar dust rises and is suspended in the sunlight to determine if it contains water vapor.

It's Been Worth the Wait!


As a 30 year-old research assistant at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, I have a unique perspective of the Apollo missions. I was not alive when humans last walked on the moon; the Apollo missions were part of my parents’ generation. With live televised coverage from the lunar surface and glossy photo spreads in magazines, places like Tranquility Base, the Descartes Highlands, and Fra Mauro became familiar during the Apollo program. However after the final Apollo mission left the moon, many forgot these significant lunar landmarks. That changes today. With the amazing images of the Apollo landing sites taken through NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), the Apollo landing sites are once again significant for today’s generation.


These images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), released July 17, show
five of the six Apollo landing sites with arrows pointing out the lunar descent
module visible resting on the lunar surface. (NASA/GSFC/ASU)
View other images of the moon in our blog’s Flickr gallery.

The Apollo landing sites are no longer simply historic sites revealed through 40 year-old images taken by the Apollo astronauts.  Instead, they are dynamic landscapes that can be seen in a new light through LRO. These special areas on the moon now have a new life, with the help of a reminder that 40 years ago humans spent days exploring the surface of our neighbor in space.

For me, these photos have an additional dimension as they remind me of why I’ve always been interested in the moon. In the mid 1960s my father worked on the Apollo program, building parts for the astronauts’ backpacks, known as the Portable Life Support Systems (PLSS).  At the end of each lunar landing mission, in order to reduce the mass launched into lunar orbit, the astronauts would toss the PLSS’ onto the lunar surface; they were left behind and quickly forgotten. However, those who built the PLSS did not forget them. Before the packs were finished and shipped off, the engineers would etch their signatures on parts of the PLSS frame. So when the packs were left on the moon, the signatures also remained as a permanent monument to their achievements. So now when I look at these amazing photos, I can’t see those backpacks in these images, future images of the sites may show them, but I do see places where my dad’s name will be found forever.


This photo from the Apollo 17 mission shows the Portable Life Support Systems
backpack that Noah’s father worked on in the foreground. (NASA
)

LRO is an important mission for lunar scientists for many reasons. For me one of the most important reasons is that we’ll address many science questions that we’ve come up with in the 40 years since Apollo 11. How many craters have formed on the moon in the last 40 years? How deep are all those craters? LRO data will also help us plan for sending humans back to the moon, we’ll be able to find the safe and scientifically interesting places where humans can explore. So for the next decade or so, we will turn to data from LRO to select the places we want to send astronauts to for long periods of time. If I can’t be one of those astronauts, hopefully I’ll be able use the data from LRO to help train the astronauts that will go there. While the Apollo missions might have been for my parents’ generation, LRO is also for my generation, and for the generations that will follow. And maybe, one day, I’ll be able to get my name onto the lunar surface too!

Noah Petro, lunar geologist

Is the Moon a Planet,Too?


Lunar scientist Barbara Cohen explains how our moon functions very much like a planet.

You’ve all probably heard about the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decision to define a planet — probably because it clarified that there is a big belt of icy objects out beyond the orbit of Neptune, and we now know that Pluto is one of thousands of them. The IAU definition also excludes moons from being planets. But did you know our moon functions like a planet? It has a lot to teach us about how planets form and evolve.


Solar system rendering of the eight planets. (Image credit: Koolang Astronomical
Observatory and Science Display Center)
View more blog images

Like the Earth, our moon has a crust, a mantle and a core. These interior layers we think are present on most planets, even if the crust is made of rock or ice. Mars probably has a crust, mantle, and core, and so do Venus and Mercury. The rocks we brought back from the moon from the Apollo missions helped us learn that this process of forming internal layers, or differentiation, is a common process on all planets. So when the moon formed, it formed like a planet.


Another hallmark of planets is that they have active geology. The big, dark splotches you see on the moon’s surface are lava flows. Yes, there were active volcanoes on the moon. There aren’t any volcanic cones, because the lava was very fluid and flowed out through cracks and into low-lying areas. The Apollo samples contain small beads of volcanic glass that tell us there were giant fire-fountains on the moon too. Though volcanic activity on the moon ended about 3 billion years ago, the Apollo missions picked up thousands of earthquakes on the moon, or moonquakes. Moonquakes tell us that the moon is not geologically dead. It’s still acting like a planet today.


Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. (Image credit: Photo Credit: National Park Service)

My favorite part about planets is their impact craters, formed when asteroids or comets whizz into our part of space and collide. When you look at the moon, you can see that it preserves many impact craters on it for researchers like me to study. Did you know that all the craters you see on the moon (and there are hundreds of thousands of them!) had counterparts on the Earth at one point? We don’t see many impact craters on Earth today because the Earth’s crust continually renews itself and erases old rocks and formations.  No one rock on Earth is older than 4 billion years. The Earth definitely got beat up by impacts from comets and asteroids in its past — and that record is preserved for us to study on the moon.

For me, the best thing about the moon is that it may not be defined as a planet, but it definitely acts like one. Studying the moon allows us to learn about how all planets work. And because the moon is ancient, it’s like a time capsule back into the early days of our solar system. But, I also love that the moon looks so beautiful reflecting sunlight to us on dark nights and I can’t wait to get more information from our two lunar missions. Godspeed LRO and LCROSS!