October 08, 2009, 7:30 AM — Forgive me for stretching the limits of what the Technofile covers, but this is too cool for me not to share with my readers. Tomorrow morning at 7:30 EDT, NASA is going to crash a probe into the moon. And we get to watch it live!
The event is part of NASA's LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite) mission, the main purpose of which is to discover if there's any water on the moon. In layman terms (because I am very much a layman when it comes to these things), the LCROSS satellite, which is now orbiting the moon, will break into two parts. One part (called Centaur) will smash into the moon, hitting the floor of a crater that is always in shadow (and thus always very cold). The impact will throw up a plume of debris which will rise above the lip of the crater where heat from the sun will vaporize any ice or organic crystals that might be in the ejecta. As this happens, the surviving half of the satellite will fly through the debris plume and take samples.
If you happen to have a 10-12" telescope (or larger) then you might be able to see the plume from your backyard. For the rest of us, the impact will be streamed live over the web in a few places. NASA will have a feed, beginning at 6:15 EDT, at http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv. The NASA feed includes live footage from the spacecraft itself as well as expert commentary and other goodies. Astronomy service SLOOH is offering a double-shot of earth-bound feeds at http://www.slooh.com/special_feed.php with one feed from New Hampshire and the other from Arizona. The SLOOH feeds start at 6:30 am EDT.
It's a pretty safe bet that the impact of the Centaur module will awaken some ancient lunarian race which will immediately begin waging a campaign to subjugate Earth once and for all, so it would behoove you to watch one of these feeds in order to be prepared for the inevitable. In the meantime, you can spend your last day of peace by learning more about the LCROSS mission at the NASA site.