Wednesday, 24 December 2008
Although we have little historical information about the Star (only two sentences in the Book of Matthew refer to it) hundreds, if not thousands, of books and articles have been written on possible astronomical interpretations of the event. In fact, the December, 2007, issue of Sky and Telescope magazine contained an article by an astronomy student at Michigan State University, Aaron Adair, that summarizes nicely the various theories. His conclusions may surprise you.
Some proposed explanations, such as ball lightning or meteors, never gained acceptance. More popular theories include comets, novae (stars that "flare up") or planetary alignments, but Adair argues "a closer examination finds severe weaknesses in all of these."
The comet hypothesis does not seem plausible because comets were most often regarded as omens of evil. A nova or supernova could have been bright enough and lasted long enough to guide the Magi to Jerusalem. But a nova or supernovae would have been recorded by observers in the Far East and no such reports have been found. Also, it is difficult to imagine a comet or supernova behaving as described in the Scriptures.
One of the most popular explanations involves what is known as a planetary conjunction, a gathering of two or more planets in the same area of the sky. With modern planetarium software, we can easily recreate these events at the exact time and position in which they occurred. One such example is the very close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter near the star Regulus in the constellation Leo on June 17, 2 B.C. This explanation assumes Leo is the constellation representing Judea at that time, but scholars do not agree on this point.
Planetary conjunctions, however, usually had astrological meanings and Adair makes a good argument that Jesus' Jewish followers probably would not have heeded the warnings of astrologers.
Another recent "explanation" was put forth by Michael Molnar in his 1999 book "The Star of Bethlehem." On April 17, 6 B.C., the Moon occulted (passed in front of) the planet Jupiter. He argues this could have been interpreted as a good sign that later became the Star. Unfortunately, evidence suggests an occultation such as this would have predicted a King's death! Equally unfortunate is the fact that the occultation took place in the daytime and would not have been visible to the Magi.
Adair, who is also a show presenter at the Abrams Planetarium at MSU, offers an alternate viewpoint at the end of his article. Since all of the astronomical "explanations" have serious flaws, perhaps we should rely on faith in this case. To read comments on the article go to-
Monday, 22 December 2008
URSID METEORS: Earth is passing through a stream of debris from comet 8P/Tuttle and this is causing the annual Ursid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the Ursids to peak on Dec. 22nd with 8 to 10 meteors per hour flying out of the constellation Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper) not far from the north star. The display is usually mild, but outbursts of Ursids occasionally surprise observers with rates many times normal. The last time this happened was in 2006.
Standing outdoors to watch Ursids in December can be a chilling experience. So why not stay inside and listen? Spaceweather.com is broadcasting live audio from the Air Force Space Surveillance Radar in Texas. When a meteor passes over the facility--"ping"--there is an echo. Because the Ursid radiant is circumpolar (always up) over the radar, the echoes may be heard at any hour, night or day. Tune in to http://spaceweather.com to try the audio feed, which can support 1000 simultaneous listeners.
Monday, 15 December 2008
Friday, 12 December 2008
WEEKEND METEORS: Earth is entering a stream of debris from extinct comet 3200 Phaethon, and this is causing the annual Geminid meteor shower. The shower is expected to peak on Dec. 13th and 14th. Normally, as many as 100 meteors per hour shoot out of the constellation Gemini, but this year a bright Moon will interfere with the display, reducing hourly counts to only 20 or so. That's could still be a nice show. For best results, watch the sky from 10 pm local time on Saturday night (Dec 13th) until dawn on Sunday morning (Dec. 14th).
BIGGEST FULL MOON OF THE YEAR: The Moon that's causing trouble for the Geminid display happens to be biggest full Moon of 2008, as much as 14% wider and 30% brighter than lesser Moons we've seen earlier this year. An astronomer would say this is a "perigee Moon" because it occurs at perigee, the side of the Moon's elliptical orbit closest to Earth. Go outside tonight and take a look. The meteor rate may be low, but the lunar beauty index is off the charts.
Check http://spaceweather.com for updates and more information.
BONUS: The Dec. 1st Great Conjunction Photo Gallery continues to grow with daily additions from around the world. Start browsing here: http://spaceweather.com/conjunctions/gallery_01dec08_page6.htm
Friday, 5 December 2008
When the sun goes down, step outside and look south. Beaming through the twilight is one of the prettiest things you'll ever see--a tight three-way conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the crescent Moon. The event is visible from all parts of the world, even from light-polluted cities. People in New York and Hong Kong will see it just as clearly as astronomers watching from remote mountaintops. Only cloudy weather or a midnight sun (sorry Antarctica!) can spoil the show.
The great conjunction offers something extra to Europeans. For more than an hour on Monday evening, the crescent Moon will actually eclipse Venus. Astronomers call such an event a "lunar occultation." Venus emerging from the dark edge of the Moon is a remarkably beautiful sight. Sky watchers across Europe will be able to see this happen.
Visit http://spaceweather.com for photos, webcasts and more information.
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Before docking with the station, astronaut Chris Ferguson, STS-126 commander, flew the shuttle through a roll pitch maneuver or basically a backflip to allow the space station crew a good view of Endeavour's heat shield. Using digital still cameras equipped with both 400 and 800 millimeter lenses, the station crew took a number of photos of the shuttle's thermal protection system and sent them down to teams on the ground for analysis. A 400 millimeter lens was used for this image.
Image Credit: NASA
Monday, 17 November 2008
+ View computer-generated artist's renderings of future ISS assembly flights
EVENING PLANETS: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look southwest. The two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, are shining through the twilight side by side. You'll want to keep an eye on these two because they are drawing noticeably closer together every night. Venus and Jupiter are converging on a patch of sky in Sagittarius where they will have a spectacular double-conjunction with the Moon at the end of the month. Don't wait until then, though. Visit http://spaceweather.com for sky maps and start watching now.
LEONID METEOR WATCH: The Leonid meteor shower peaks this year on Nov. 17th and 18th. Bright moonlight will probably spoil the show, but not necessarily. Researchers who study Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, the source of the Leonids, say Earth is going to pass through one or two of the comet's dusty filaments. Peak rates of 20 to 100 meteors per hour are possible during the early hours of Nov. 17th (especially 0000-0200 UT) and again during the waning hours of Nov. 18th (around 2130 UT). These times favor sky watchers in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Smaller numbers of Leonids could appear between the anticipated peak times. Meteor enthusiasts everywhere should monitor the sky on Nov. 17th and 18th; the hours before local dawn are usually best.
STS-126 MCC Status Report #05
The space shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station at 4:01 p.m. CST, carrying the Leonardo logistics module with over 14,000 pounds of cargo for the complex.
Endeavour Commander Chris Ferguson guided the shuttle to a docking with the station as the two spacecraft flew 212 miles above the northern border of India, near China. Before closing the final 600 feet to the station, Ferguson flew the shuttle through a slow backflip, allowing the station's Expedition 18 Commander Mike Fincke and Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff to take photos that ground experts will review to assess the health of Endeavour's heat shield.
The shuttle and station crews opened hatches and greeted one another at 6:16 p.m., beginning more than a week of joint operations between the two crews. The crews will collaborate on the delivery of the key life support and habitability systems that will enable long-term, self-sustaining station operations for a six-person resident crew. The crews also will conduct four spacewalks to service and lubricate the station's two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints that allow its solar arrays to track the sun.
Transfer of equipment and supplies between Endeavour's middeck and the station began and the Leonardo cargo module will be installed on the station Monday so that its contents can be unloaded.
Endeavour also brought astronaut Sandra Magnus to the station, who will officially take over for Chamitoff as a member of the station crew tonight when her custom Soyuz seatliner is installed. Chamitoff – who will then formally be a mission specialist aboard the shuttle – will return home after 167 days as a station crew member.
The crews used the station robotic arm to hand off the Orbiter Boom Sensor System to the shuttle robotic arm in case it is needed for further orbiter heat shield inspections.
The crew is scheduled to go to bed at 12:25 a.m. Monday and be awakened at 8:25 a.m. The next shuttle status report will be issued after crew wake, or earlier if events warrant.
- end -
Thursday, 6 November 2008
TAURID METEOR SHOWER: The annual Taurid meteor shower is underway and it could be a good show. 2008 is a "swarm year" for the Taurids. Between Nov. 5th and 12th, Earth is due to pass through an unusually dense swarm of gritty debris from parent comet 2P/Encke. When a similar encounter happened in 2005, sky watchers observed a slow drizzle of midnight fireballs for nearly two weeks. Whether 2008 will be as good as 2005, however, remains to be seen. In 2005, the swarm encounter was more central; Earth passed through the middle of the cloud. In 2008, forecasters believe we are closer to the outskirts. How much this will affect the shower, no one knows. The best time to look is during the hours around midnight when the constellation Taurus is high in the sky.
Visit http://spaceweather.com for sky maps and photos of the ongoing shower.
Would you like a phone call to alert you when the ISS is about to fly over your hometown--or when auroras are active--or when meteor showers erupt? Sign up for SpaceWeather PHONE: http://spaceweatherphone.com
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
Thanks very much for your fireball report from October 29-30. Much appreciated, and congratulations on spotting such a fine meteor!
Unfortunately, but as is so often the case, I've not had any other sightings from around 18:06 UT that night as yet, but your report will stay on-file in case anything more turns up. I'll add it to the SPA's "Recent Fireball Sightings" page in my next update as well, which should hopefully be online in a day or two, and which may bring in some belated observations.
Your description makes clear this meteor cannot have originated from a radiant in Cygnus, because meteors from a given shower are always very short when their paths start close to their radiant. Such a very long path as you mentioned is only possible for the random sporadic meteors, or a shower whose radiant is low in the sky. From the details you sent, this particular meteor may have been a Taurid, since although you suggested it was of speed class 3 or 4, a 60 to 70 degree path taking about 10 seconds to accomplish is meteorically slow to very slow (so, of class 1 or 2). I'd need more precise details on just where the apparent path started and ended in the sky (RA and Dec positions for both points ideally) to determine if it was a probable Taurid or not, however.
If you did record, or can recall, more information on the object's sky-path, I'd be pleased to see it, though I appreciate the problems of trying to remember such information exactly enough this long after the event, if it wasn't noted at the time.
Good luck for more such sightings before too long, and all best wishes, Alastair.
Meteor Director, Society for Popular Astronomy.
Meteor homepage: http://www.popastro.com/sections/meteor.htm
E-mail: <email@example.com> (messages under 150 kB in size only, please)
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
The SOCIETY for POPULAR ASTRONOMY
Special Electronic News Bulletin 2008 November 4
GRAZING OCCULTATION OF NEPTUNE -- THURSDAY 2008 NOVEMBER 6
By Jon Harper
Occultation Section Director
Early in the evening of 6 November, observers in the north and west of
the UK will have an opportunity (weather permitting) to observe an
occultation of Neptune, while those in the south and east will see the
planet close to the southern limb of the Moon. The most interesting
place to be is on the graze line, which crosses the country from SW to
NE, from north Cornwall and north Devon, via south Wales, Stoke on
Trent, Barnsley and York to Whitby on the North Sea coast. In the
graze zone you may expect to see the planet dim and blink out several
times as it is successively hidden and then reappears behind mountains
on the Moon's dark southern limb. After leaving England, the graze
line continues towards the NE following the coastline of Norway.
I have produced a map showing the graze line crossing the country, and
another showing the position of the m(v) +7.9 planet in relation to
the gibbous waxing Moon's dark limb at the time. The maps may be seen
in the most recent issue of 'Popular Astronomy' or can be accessed
from the Occultation Section's website, via:
http://www.popastro.com/sections/occ.htm or directly at:
Approximate times (UT) of the grazing event for various UK places on
the line are as follows -- but it would be a good idea to set up and
locate Neptune 15 minutes or more before the predicted time: Lizard
Point 18:44, Barnstaple 18:46, Lynmouth 18:48, St Brides (S. Wales
coast) 18:49, Brecon 18:50, Stoke on Trent 18:51, Barnsley 18:52, York
18:53, Whitby 18:54. The altitude and azimuth of the event are about
22 and 183 degrees respectively, and the Moon's age is 8.8 days.
The next UK lunar occultation of Neptune is not until 2016 June 25
at around 23:55 UT.
Bulletin compiled by Clive Down
(c) 2008 the Society for Popular Astronomy.
Thursday, 30 October 2008
I spotted a reasonably bright moving medium to fast speed (scale 3-4) Fireball at 18.06 Hours U.T from my house, I would say its estimated Magnitude was possibly -4 to -5 leaving a long trajectory trail (possibly 60 to 70 degrees) from the Constellation of Cygnus on the Azimuth to the North West location of Bootes, the trail was thin and straight with orange-red burning material spewing from the small orange coloured fireball and was moving quite straight through the sky so any firework can be ruled out, I also thought before the fireball appeared I heard a reasonable bang in the sky.
The Fireball started dim got brighter and burnt itself out as it got into thicker atmosphere in the North West and I would say overall it lasted for around 10 seconds at the most disappearing 20 degrees above the Horizon.
I was wondering if this may have been a Cygnid fireball as it came from that Constellation (or direction) of the sky.
Saturday, 25 October 2008
The messages will be broadcast beginning at 11 a.m. CDT, Monday, Oct. 27, on both standard definition and high-definition NASA TV. The HD version also will be broadcast at 11 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, Oct. 28, and Wednesday, Oct. 29.
Speeding 210 miles above Earth at five miles per second, Expedition 18 Commander E. Michael Fincke and Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff will join millions of Americans and cast their votes in the Nov. 4 election. Thanks to a Texas bill passed in 1997, Fincke and Chamitoff will join several past astronauts who have voted from orbit.
Joined by Russian Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov, Fincke and Chamitoff also beamed down a message celebrating the upcoming 10th anniversary of the station's launch. The first space station component, the bus-sized Zarya module, lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Nov. 20, 1998. During the last 10 years, 76 flights have launched to the complex. The orbiting laboratory has grown to a mass of almost 600,000 pounds and an inside volume larger than a four-bedroom house.
For NASA TV streaming video, schedules and downlink information, visit:
For the latest information on the space station, visit:
- end -
Friday, 24 October 2008
Thursday, 23 October 2008
A question I asked Suffolk County Council about Streetlighting curbs in my area....
Dear Mr Watling
we are currently investigating remote monitoring and control systems and will soon be having talks with adjacent local authorities regarding part night lighting or dimming but as yet there have been no decisions. We will need to consult with our own Councillors, Parish and District Councils prior to any decision.
Part night lighting was precisely what used to happen not so many years ago but was done away with on grounds of both personal safety and traffic safety - extended opening times have not helped!
Regarding good clear skies, we are gradually replacing old units which cause light pollution with those causing zero uplighting.
Intelligent Transport Systems and Street Lighting Team Leader
Fax No (01473) 216864
Environment & Transport
Service Delivery Agency
B1- F5 -16
'Spring Forward' and 'Fall Back' - that's how to remember when to change the clocks. This year, 2008, we 'Go Back' early Sunday morning October 26 - so remember to put your clocks back one hour, officially at 1am GMT (2am BST) or for some of us that will be before we go to sleep on Saturday night!
British Summer Time (BST) is the daylight saving time in effect in the UK and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) stays the same all year round and is measured from the Greenwich Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. It is the place from where all time zones are measured. In 2002 an order was made to link our summertime to Europe permanently. This means that the clocks go forward and back on the last Sundays in March and October respectively.
2008 March 30 and October 26
Clocks go back Autumn 2008 | Remember that the clocks go back by one hour on Sunday October 26, 2008
The English have been moving their clocks backwards and forwards since 1916. Businessman William Willett had noticed that during the summer people wasted the light mornings in bed. He proposed that the clocks be moved forward by one hour for summer so that the extra light could be put to better use in the afternoon, and put back for winter.
What does the clocks going back mean to you? Shorter, darker days is just the beginning for most of us.
While we can still enjoy flip flops and holiday memories at the moment, once the clocks change we will have to accept the inevitable. It is the end of summer and the beginning of the relentless, unstoppable descent into Christmas madness.
Almost as soon as those hands go back, we have packed away light, airy summer thoughts. The mornings get darker and the chilliness starts to set in. We notice the pumpkins and spiders decorating the shops. Small children dress like monsters and demand free stuff. Not that unusual, but it is indeed Halloween again.
Within a few days we find ourselves oohing and aahing over fireworks and perhaps even wearing a scarf. Must be Bonfire Night. We can fool ourselves a little longer by playing in the garden and taking fresh country walks in big jumpers. Maybe we can even still sit outside the pub to have a few beers.
But by mid-November there is only one destination: the festive season. Before we know it, we're gazing longingly at aspirational Christmas scenes on magazines, loitering near the wrapping paper, and planning Christmas drinks with old friends. The warm, cosy arms of Christmas are enveloping us.
It's only a matter of time before we find ourselves devouring mince pies, knocking back the mulled wine and singing Fairytale of New York. There is no hope for us.
Every year, we go Christmas crazy and demand joy and goodwill from everyone. Then it's January and we're all depressed. The cosiness of confinement has turned to claustrophobia and we've got at least three more months of it with nothing else to look forward to.
This is when we need to make plans: organise days out; cook some big old roasts for family and friends; book a West End show; take a city break, ski trip or a winter sun holiday. And look forward to spring when the clocks will go forward and we'll start all over again.
by Maxine Clarke.
Many people across Europe will need to remember to turn their clocks back by one hour in their local times when daylight saving time comes to an end on October 26, 2008. On this date, most countries in Europe will revert back to their local standard times.
Many places around Europe, including Berlin in Germany, will end the 2008 daylight saving schedule on October 26, 2008 and Clocks Turn One Hour Back in Europe
Not all countries will turn the clocks back at the same time. For example, parts of Denmark (eg. Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland) and Portugal (eg. Azores) will move the clock back from 1am local time to 12:00 midnight (or 00:00) on October 26, 2008. Countries such as the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as most of Portugal and Spain's Canary Islands, will shift the clock back from 2am to 1am at their local times on this date.
Countries such as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain (except the Canary Islands), and the Russian Federation will turn the clocks back from 3am to 2am at their local times. Countries such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Turkey, and Ukraine will turn the clocks back from 4am to 3am at their local times. Timeanddate.com's Upcoming Clock Changes has more information about time changes that occur in various countries when daylight saving time ends.
Europe's Daylight Saving Time
The European Union's (EU) daylight saving schedule runs from the last Sunday in March through the last Sunday in October. An EU directive states that the last Sundays in March and October would be the dates definitively adopted for the daylight saving schedule among EU countries.
Prior to the EU's directive, during the 1980s many European countries had different daylight saving practices and this affected transport schedules and communications issues, especially for businesses, across Europe. In 1996 the EU standardized daylight saving time across most of Europe to ensure consistency with daylight saving times.
Listed below are the major time zones used across EU countries during the non-daylight saving period:
Western European Time (WET), observed during the winter only in countries such as Denmark (Faroe Islands only), Portugal and Spain (Canary Islands only).
Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), observed all year in Iceland and during the winter only in countries such as Ireland and the United Kingdom (main islands – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Central Europe Time (CET), observed in countries including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Poland and Sweden.
Eastern Europe Time (EET), observed in countries including Estonia, Finland, Greece, Latvia and Lithuania.
During summer daylight saving time/summer time, Western European Summer Time (WEST) is used instead of WET, Central European Summer Time (CEST) is used instead of CET, and Eastern European Summer Time (EEST) is used instead of EET.
The United Kingdom and Ireland
It is important to note that the United Kingdom does not observe Greenwich Mean Time (GMT, also known as UTC) all year round. It reverts from British Summer Time (BST) to GMT when it ends its daylight saving schedule. Ireland switches from Irish Summer Time (IST) to GMT when daylight saving time finishes.
Note: Any reference to summer in this article relates to summer in the northern hemisphere.
with the launch of the country's first deep space mission, a probe to
circle the moon with science gear from India, Europe and the United
The 3,042-pound Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft was launched at 0052 GMT
Wednesday (8:52 p.m. EDT Tuesday) from the Satish Dhawan Space Center
on Sriharikota Island on India's east coast.
The probe flew into space aboard a beefed-up Polar Satellite Launch
Vehicle, a 146-foot-tall rocket originally built to haul Earth
observation satellites into orbit.
The PSLV flew east from the launch site, propelling the spacecraft to
a velocity of more than 20,500 mph and reaching an initial orbit with
a high point of 14,205 miles and a low point of 158 miles. The
inclination was about 17.9 degrees, according to the Indian Space
"Our baby is on the way to the moon," one engineer said a few minutes
after the launch.
Engineers at the Chandrayaan 1 control center near Bangalore reported
they had contacted the spacecraft moments after it was deployed from
the rocket's fourth stage.
"This is an historic moment as far as India is concerned," said G.
Madhavan Nair, ISRO chairman. "It was a remarkable performance by the
launch vehicle. Every parameter was on the dot."
Senior ISRO officials spoke to the launch team shortly after the first
portion of the mission was declared a success.
"What we have started is a remarkable journey for an Indian spacecraft
to go to the moon and try to unravel (its) mysteries," Nair said. "I
must take this opportunity to congratulate every one of you who have
really contributed to this great success."
The final days before launch were plagued by monsoon rains, but the
showers stopped long enough for officials to clear the rocket for
launch at dawn Wednesday, Indian time.
"We have been fighting against all odds the past four days," Nair said.
Chandrayaan 1, India's first robotic mission to leave Earth orbit,
will fire its own engine up to five times in the next two weeks to
gradually reach a 250,000-mile-high orbit taking the spacecraft to the
vicinity of the moon.
The probe will fire its engine again Nov. 8 to enter lunar orbit. The
burn is scheduled to begin at about 1227 GMT (7:27 a.m. EST) to place
Chandrayaan 1 in an oval-shaped parking orbit. That orbit will
eventually be lowered to a circular path about 62 miles above the
Plans call for Chandrayaan 1 to release a 64-pound impactor around
Nov. 15 for a suicidal nosedive into the moon. The trip from orbit to
the lunar surface will take about a half-hour, and the small craft
will relay imagery, altitude information and spectral data back to
Earth through the Chandrayaan mother ship.
Chandrayaan means "moon craft" in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India.
The $80 million mission is India's answer to a pair of lunar missions
launched last year by Japan and China. Both countries' moon orbiters
are still collecting imagery and scientific data.
But unlike the Japanese and Chinese missions, India invited large
contributions from other nations to put instruments on Chandrayaan 1.
Scientists from Europe and the United States answered the call.
More than half of the probes 11 instruments come from outside India.
The European Space Agency spent $8 million to fund three payloads,
while NASA provided two more sensors. Bulgarian scientists also
contributed a radiation monitor to the mission.
The payloads will be turned on and tested by the end of November
before the spacecraft begins an operational mission lasting at least
two years, officials said.
Scientists expect data from Chandrayaan 1 to help create the most
detailed global chemical map of the moon showing mineral
concentrations across the lunar surface. Researchers will also make a
three-dimensional terrain map of the moon based on information yielded
by the mission.
"We are going to look at the moon slightly differently than the people
who are looking at it (now). We're looking at the moon very
systematically," said Mylswamy Annadurai, Chandrayaan 1 project
director at ISRO. "We're going to make a repository of the whole moon
and its contents."
ESA's three instruments come from teams led by scientists in the
United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden.
"In an era of renewed interest for the moon on a worldwide scale, the
ESA-ISRO collaboration on Chandrayaan 1 is a new opportunity for
Europe to expand its competence in lunar science while tightening the
long-standing relationship with India - an ever stronger space power,"
said David Southwood, ESA director of science and robotic exploration.
The ESA-funded X-ray and near-infrared imaging spectrometers, called
C1XS and SIR 2, will detect mineral signatures in soil on and just
below the lunar surface. Both instruments are based on similar sensors
that flew aboard Europe's SMART 1 spacecraft, which was deliberately
crashed into the moon in 2006.
"European scientists will have the fantastic opportunity to continue
our work on the moon," said Detlef Koschny, ESA's Chandrayaan 1
Europe's instruments aboard Chandrayaan 1 will work closely with other
countries' payloads to help fill in the blanks in what scientists know
about the moon.
"The Apollo missions went down to the surface, but only in a limited
number of spots, whereas Chandrayaan tries to do detailed imaging of
the entire sphere of the moon," said Christian Erd, ESA's Chandrayaan
1 project manager.
SARA, the other ESA payload, will observe solar wind particles
contacting the moon's surface to study its effects on the top layer of
NASA provided a pair of instruments, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper and
the MiniSAR radar, as part of the agency's effort to return to robotic
exploration of the moon.
"The opportunity to fly NASA instruments on Chandrayaan 1 undoubtedly
will lead to important scientific discoveries," said Michael Griffin,
NASA administrator. "This exciting collaboration represents an
important next step in what we hope to be a long and mutually
beneficial relationship with India in future civil space exploration."
The Moon Mineralogy Mapper, nicknamed M3, is a visual and
near-infrared imaging spectrometer designed to plot mineral resources
at higher resolutions than any instrument before. M3 scientists from
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory hope the device will help them create
mineral maps to find science-rich landing sites for future missions.
M3 will also look for direct evidence of pockets of water ice hidden
inside craters near the lunar poles. Scientists believe there are
frozen water deposits deep within the eternally dark craters due to
high concentrations of hydrogen found there on previous missions.
The MiniSAR payload was developed by the Johns Hopkins University
Applied Physics Laboratory. The instrument will bounce radar beams off
the lunar surface to look for signs of water ice packed inside the
walls of deep craters near the moon's poles.
The combination of data from the M3 and MiniSAR instruments will allow
researchers to determine how many craters could harbor the frozen
water, NASA officials said.
India's indigenous suite of science payloads include a terrain camera
designed to take detailed black-and-white pictures of the whole lunar
surface. The stereo camera will be able to spot features as small as
about 16 feet, according to ISRO.
ISRO scientists also built two spectral imagers, one focusing on
near-infrared and another in the X-ray range, to help produce precise
global maps of the minerals and soil contents on the moon's surface.
A laser system was also bolted to the spacecraft to determine its
altitude above the moon and chart lunar surface topography.
Indian engineers also constructed the moon impact probe.
"It has been the dream of Indian scientists to send a satellite around
the moon and then collect more data about the surface features,
minerals and so on," Nair said. "That dream is going to come true
through this mission."