The Moon, ever mysterious, and still full of science discoveries. I am interested in the recent detections of water on the Moon, and participated in the LCROSS Observing Campaign, when astronomers attempted to observe the aftermath of a NASA spacecraft impact on the Moon.

On October 9th, 2009, NASA's LCROSS mission successfully impacted a permanently shadowed crater. Permanently shadowed craters potentially preserve unusual lunar volatiles, like water ice, perhaps placed there by impacting comets. The goal was to excavate material from such a cold trap near the Moon's south pole and loft it into sunlight where it could be observed by a shepherding spacecraft, and astronomers on Earth.

I observed the impact at the IRTF with David Harker (UCSD), and John Rayner (UH/IfA). Below is a mosaic of the Moon near the south pole, and an image of the impact location. Despite our best efforts at Mauna Kea and those of many others, we did not detect the ejecta plume — it was faint!

Lunar terrain surrounding the LCROSS impact location

A mosaic of 47 images covering the region surrounding the LCROSS impact location taken at the NASA IRTF, slightly enhanced to show detail.

Pointing to the LCROSS impact site

The locations of the craters that we used to precisely align our instrument with the LCROSS impact site.

LCROSS impact location

An image near the LCROSS impact location in Cabeus crater. The red bar marks the location of our spectrometer's entrance slit. The impact location is in the shadowed area behind the slit, but the line-of-sight is obstructed by the large, bright mountain.