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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

LCROSS impact recap, with animations

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

09-10-2009 8:46 CDT

Topics: pretty pictures, amateur image processing, mission status, LCROSS, the Moon, animation

Quite a night! I set my alarm for 3:15 am in order to get up and watch LCROSS crash into the Moon. My 5-month-old obligingly woke up at 2:45 to be fed -- which meant that I got half an hour less sleep than I might've, but also meant I could feed her and get her back in bed in time to catch the action. Good girl.

Armed with a cup of coffee and a heating pad for my recently sprained shoulder, I queued up NASA TV and a couple of the promised live feeds as well as TweetDeck so I could Twitter what was going on. I was pleasantly surprised by just how many people there were Twittering away about LCROSS, especially once the NASA TV feed started.

Everything seemed to go according to plan, except for one thing: as far as I can tell, nobody anywhere saw any visual confirmation of the impact. That doesn't necessarily mean bad news; the real data will come from thermal instruments and spectrometers and such, and the reduction of that data may take days to weeks. It was a bit disappointing not to see anything though. Despite that, it was quite thrilling to watch the Moon grow in the LCROSS spacecraft's forward view, especially since it presented such an unusual perspective on the Moon, looking down on its south pole. It made the Moon as unfamiliar as, say, Mimas, or Mercury, for a little while.

The LCROSS spacecraft's data feed to Earth seemed to work fabulously. I had my fingers on my Ctrl-PrtSc keys almost continuously to grab screen captures from the fine NASA TV feed provided by MSNBC. From those I put together these three animations of the LCROSS camera images.

Now to go do my morning routine. There's a press briefing planned for 7:00 PDT, in about an hour, which I'll do my best to cover, though the baby will no doubt be making my life more interesting then!

LCROSS aims for the Moon

NASA / GSFC / animation by Emily Lakdawalla

LCROSS aims for the Moon
Seventeen screen caps taken from NASA TV over a period of 42 minutes chronicle the journey of LCROSS to meet the Moon. The animation goes up to about 10 minutes prior to impact.
LCROSS aims for the Moon

NASA / GSFC / animation by Emily Lakdawalla

LCROSS aims for the Moon
Thirteen screen caps taken from NASA TV over a period of about eight minutes chronicle the journey of LCROSS to meet the Moon. The animation goes up to less than a minute before impact.
LCROSS aims for the Moon

NASA / GSFC / animation by Emily Lakdawalla

LCROSS aims for the Moon
Twelve screen caps taken from NASA TV over a period of 42 minutes chronicle the journey of LCROSS to meet the Moon, as seen through its infrared camera. The first nine frames are spaced on average about 4 minutes apart. The last few frames come from the final seconds before impact. The thermal infrared camera images are false color, with cooler areas in blue and warmer in red. The spectrum keeps adjusting to completely cover the range of temperatures visible in the image. In the first frame, there is a range of 460 different pixel values. In the final frame, the range covers only 32 pixel values, which is why it appears noisier.

EDIT: here's a video from NASA via YouTube.

 
See other posts from October 2009

 

Or read more blog entries about: pretty pictures, amateur image processing, mission status, LCROSS, the Moon, animation

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