Graves Of Twin Moon Probes Spotted By NASA Spacecraft - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Graves Of Twin Moon Probes Spotted By NASA Spacecraft

YAHOO.COM - An eagle-eyed NASA spacecraft has spotted the tiny craters two moon probes created when they crashed intentionally into the lunar surface last year.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) snapped a series of photographs of the two 16.5-foot-wide (5 meters) craters, which mark where the space agency's twin Grail probes ended their gravity-mapping mission, and their operational lives, on Dec. 17.

"It was really fun to find the craters," Mark Robinson of Arizona State University, principal investigator for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), said today (March 19) during a press conference at the 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas.

It's a bit of a surprise that the LROC team was able to find the craters at all, Robinson added. LRO orbits the moon at an altitude of about 100 miles (160 kilometers), and the craters are small, nondescript features on a body riddled with impact scars. [Grail Probes' Final Moments (Video)]

The two Grail spacecraft — known as Ebb and Flow — slammed into a mountain near the lunar north pole at 3,771 mph (6,070 km/h), striking the lunar surface about 20 seconds apart. They were running out of fuel and were bound to crash at some point, so the Grail team brought them down in a controlled fashion away from areas of historical importance such as the Apollo landing sites.

The Grail craters first showed up in LROC photos from January, but images taken on Feb. 28 show them in much greater detail. Robinson and his team used these later photos to produce a topographic map of the impact zone, which was named after the late NASA astronaut Sally Ride, who had led Grail's educational MoonKAM project before her death last July.

This map revealed that the two craters are separated by about 7,250 feet (2,210 m) in straight-line distance and 985 feet (300 m) in altitude, researchers said. Surprisingly, the crashes ejected material that appears darker than the surrounding lunar dirt.

"Fresh impact craters on the moon are typically bright, but these may be dark due to spacecraft material being mixed with the ejecta," Robinson said in a statement. This material may be residual fuel left in the probes' lines, or bits of their carbon-fiber bodies, he added.

LRO also managed to observe the immediate aftermath of the Dec. 17 Grail impacts after performing some precision maneuvering, team members announced today.

LRO didn't get any images of the actual crashes, which occurred in the dark. But its ultraviolet imaging spectrograph did see emissions from mercury and atomic hydrogen in the ejected plumes when they rose high enough to reach sunlight.

"This gives insight into how volatile material is transported around the moon," LRO chief scientist John Keller, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a statement. "It gives us a data point that helps constrain models of volatile transport, especially for models that describe how volatile material can get transported from warm to cold areas on the moon."

The analysis of the Grail impact plumes is ongoing, researchers added.

The $496 million Grail mission — short for Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory — launched in September 2011. Ebb and Flow arrived at the moon about three months later, then raced around Earth's satellite in tandem, mapping out its gravity field in unprecedented detail.

The probes' measurements have allowed scientists to create the best-ever gravity map of any celestial body, Grail scientists say. And that map is getting better all the time, as researchers continue to analyze the data Ebb and Flow gathered in their last weeks and months.

The twin probes, which were each about the size of a washing machine, zipped around the moon at an average altitude of 7 miles (11 km) in their final days.

"They dedicated their existence to science," Grail chief scientist Maria Zuber of MIT said during today's press conference, which also revealed an updated lunar gravity map. "Their demise allowed us to map the moon at a very low altitude that enabled the high-resolution maps that you see today."

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • PHOTOS: Northern Lights dazzle across the region

    PHOTOS: Northern Lights dazzle across the region

    Sunday, May 28 2017 9:28 PM EDT2017-05-29 01:28:09 GMT

    KHQ.com - If you were up late Saturday night and looking up at the sky, you were treated to a beautiful light show courtesy of Mother Nature. Independence Day fireworks are still about a month away, but Saturday's Northern Lights display was just as dazzling. Several of you shared your photos with us. Click through the slide show above to see some of the photos sent to us.

    >>

    KHQ.com - If you were up late Saturday night and looking up at the sky, you were treated to a beautiful light show courtesy of Mother Nature. Independence Day fireworks are still about a month away, but Saturday's Northern Lights display was just as dazzling. Several of you shared your photos with us. Click through the slide show above to see some of the photos sent to us.

    >>
  • Police say 8 dead in Mississippi shooting

    Police say 8 dead in Mississippi shooting

    Sunday, May 28 2017 2:16 PM EDT2017-05-28 18:16:56 GMT

    BROOKHAVEN, Miss. (AP) - Authorities say a shooting spree that left eight people dead in Mississippi began with a call regarding a domestic dispute.      The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said in a news release Sunday that three female victims and a Lincoln County sheriff's deputy were killed. 

    >>

    BROOKHAVEN, Miss. (AP) - Authorities say a shooting spree that left eight people dead in Mississippi began with a call regarding a domestic dispute.      The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said in a news release Sunday that three female victims and a Lincoln County sheriff's deputy were killed. 

    >>
  • Trial set for former high school science teacher accused of lewd conduct

    Trial set for former high school science teacher accused of lewd conduct

    Sunday, May 28 2017 3:38 PM EDT2017-05-28 19:38:26 GMT

    COEUR D'ALENE (AP) - A late summer trial is scheduled for a former Lake City High School science teacher who faces lewd conduct charges.      The Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Press reports that a two-week jury trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 26 for Jeffrey Kantola. Kantola is charged with lewd conduct with a minor under the age of 16. The felony charges can carry up to 15 years in prison.

    >>

    COEUR D'ALENE (AP) - A late summer trial is scheduled for a former Lake City High School science teacher who faces lewd conduct charges.      The Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Press reports that a two-week jury trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 26 for Jeffrey Kantola. Kantola is charged with lewd conduct with a minor under the age of 16. The felony charges can carry up to 15 years in prison.

    >>
HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • National NewsMore>>

  • Mad Minute stories from Friday, May 26th

    Mad Minute stories from Friday, May 26th

    Friday, May 26 2017 5:02 PM EDT2017-05-26 21:02:47 GMT

    Here are the extended versions of the KHQ Local News 11 at 11 Mad Minute stories from Friday, May 26th.

    >>

    Here are the extended versions of the KHQ Local News 11 at 11 Mad Minute stories from Friday, May 26th.

    >>
  • $10,000 bill for getting car stuck in newly poured concrete

    $10,000 bill for getting car stuck in newly poured concrete

    Saturday, May 27 2017 1:02 AM EDT2017-05-27 05:02:32 GMT
    (Mike Palm, The City of Lincoln Public Works and Utilities Department via AP)(Mike Palm, The City of Lincoln Public Works and Utilities Department via AP)

    LINCOLN, Neb,. (AP) - A driver could be facing a $10,000 bill after he plowed into newly poured concrete in Lincoln, Nebraska, and became stuck.      The accident occurred Wednesday on a portion of a road repair project in the state capital. Police spokeswoman Angela Sands said Friday that police won't cite the driver, 19-year-old Shadrach Yasiah. A police incident report says it wasn't obvious that the concrete wasn't dry and that Yasiah 

    >>

    LINCOLN, Neb,. (AP) - A driver could be facing a $10,000 bill after he plowed into newly poured concrete in Lincoln, Nebraska, and became stuck.      The accident occurred Wednesday on a portion of a road repair project in the state capital. Police spokeswoman Angela Sands said Friday that police won't cite the driver, 19-year-old Shadrach Yasiah. A police incident report says it wasn't obvious that the concrete wasn't dry and that Yasiah 

    >>
  • Russian bankers sue BuzzFeed over unverified Trump dossier

    Russian bankers sue BuzzFeed over unverified Trump dossier

    Friday, May 26 2017 9:02 PM EDT2017-05-27 01:02:03 GMT

    NEW YORK (AP) - The owners of a Russian bank are suing BuzzFeed for publishing an uncorroborated dossier that alleged they were part of a Russian scheme to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan of Alfa Bank filed the defamation lawsuit Friday in Manhattan. They are seeking unspecified damages from BuzzFeed, editor-in-chief Ben Smith, reporter Ken Bensinger and editors Miriam Elder and Mark Schoofs. The ...

    >>

    NEW YORK (AP) - The owners of a Russian bank are suing BuzzFeed for publishing an uncorroborated dossier that alleged they were part of a Russian scheme to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan of Alfa Bank filed the defamation lawsuit Friday in Manhattan. They are seeking unspecified damages from BuzzFeed, editor-in-chief Ben Smith, reporter Ken Bensinger and editors Miriam Elder and Mark Schoofs. The ...

    >>