Category Archives: The Moon

What Made This Curious Cross Pattern on the Moon?

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) image of a crossed pattern on the Moon

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) image of a cross shape on the Moon

It’s not a trick of the light or camera sensor artifacts, there are actually geometric lines etched into the lunar surface in the image above, captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. But these aren’t the work of ancient aliens (or Richard Hoagland’s favorite Photoshop filters) —  they’re tracks left by the Soviet rover Lunokhod 2 during its exploration of the Moon in the first few months of 1973, immediately following the end of the Apollo missions.

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Oxygen Isotopes Support Our Moon’s Violent Origin

The "Giant Impact" hypothesis has the Moon formed from an impact between early Earth and a Mars-sized body (NASA)

The “Giant Impact” hypothesis has the Moon formed from an impact between early Earth and a Mars-sized body (NASA)

While it may not be a true “smoking gun” (there have been four and a half billion years of cooling off, after all!) scientists in Germany have found further support for the currently accepted scenario of the origin of our Moon, based on chemical analysis of rocks brought back by Apollo astronauts. (And yes, we really went to the Moon.)

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No, The Moon Landings Weren’t Faked. (And Here’s How You Can Tell.)

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon with a lunar seismic experiment, July 20, 1969 (NASA photo)

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon with a lunar seismic experiment, July 20, 1969 (NASA photo)

When you write about space as often as I do (and use a laptop with a big NASA sticker on the cover no less) you’re occasionally going to get the question posed to you: did we really land on the Moon? (That, and “do you believe in UFOs?”) And with this year marking the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing — which, by the way, most definitely happened — and this particular weekend being 45 years since the Apollo 10 “dress rehearsal” lunar orbiting mission, I thought I’d assemble a list of a few oft-purported  “proofs” of a Moon landing hoax… and then let you know why they’re completely wrong.

You’ve probably heard a few of these before…

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Watch a Full Year of the Moon (in Five Minutes)

This is pretty neat — it’s a visualization of the Moon’s phases and libration all throughout 2014, made by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Visualization Studio. They’ve done these several times in the past, and this is the latest one.

For accuracy you just can’t beat it: the global terrain map you see in the rendering was made with actual images and measurements of the lunar surface obtained by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s LROC camera and laser altimeter. It’s the most detailed imaging of the Moon’s surface available!

So you know about the phases, but why is the Moon rocking back and forth like that? That’s the libration effect I mentioned — read more below:
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On the Lunatic Fringe: LADEE’s First Pictures of the Moon

Image of the Moon and stars from NASA's LADEE spacecraft, Feb. 8, 2014 (NASA/Ames)

Image of the Moon and stars from NASA’s LADEE spacecraft, Feb. 8, 2014 (NASA/Ames)

It’s getting so a spacecraft can’t take a decent picture these days without SOMEONE getting in the way! (*Ahem* MOON.) But then it just might be the lunatic we’re looking for…

The image above is one of five that were downlinked by NASA’s Lunar Atmospheric Dust Environment Explorer — aka LADEE (that’s “laddie” à la Mr. Scott, not “lady” à la Jerry Lewis) — and was taken on Feb. 8 with its wide-angle star tracker camera. We see a small portion of the lunar terrain illuminated by reflected light from the Earth from the spacecraft’s position about 156 miles above the Moon, which is about 100 miles lower than the ISS orbits above the Earth.

While not a particularly detailed image of the Moon like something we’d see from LRO, it’s still neat to see it close up and on its night side! The star tracker instrument is mainly a calibration tool for navigation… but that doesn’t mean it’s blind. (Just a wee bit farsighted.)

Read more about this in my Discovery News article.

48 Years Ago Today: The First Image from the Moon

The first image from the lunar surface, taken by the Soviet Luna 9 in 1966

The first image from the lunar surface, taken by the Soviet Luna 9  lander in 1966

On this day in 1966, the Soviet Luna 9 spacecraft made the first successful soft landing on the Moon and, 7 hours later, transmitted its first images of the lunar surface back to Earth. The image above is the Luna 9 lander’s first view.

It was the very first time we had ever seen images taken from the surface of another world.

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50 Amazing Facts About the Moon

There's a lot of fascinating things to learn about our Moon, and here are 50 of them!

There are a lot of fascinating things to learn about our Moon, and here are 50 of them!

How fast does the Moon rotate? How far is it (on average) to the Moon? How long did it take to build a lunar rover for the Apollo missions? And what did one cost? You could Google all of these answers for yourself, of course, but it’ll be a lot quicker — not to mention a lot more fun — to find out in the newest space-themed infographic from Neomammalian Studios, 50 Amazing Facts About the Moon! Check it out below. There may be some things you didn’t know about our planet’s partner in space.

(And here’s a little tip: don’t ever tell Buzz Aldrin he didn’t go to the Moon…)

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