Friday, October 21, 2005

HST images the Moon

Jim Garvin recently used the HST to do some minerology on the Moon, looking at the distribution of resources there. HST imaged the Apollo 15 and Apollo 17 landing sites as well as the prominant crater Aristarchus, using the first two areas as ground truth since we have samples from those sites.

The HST has a resolution on the Moon of around 90 meters, so while the landing sites were imaged, the hardware remains unresolved (no groundbased telescope today can resolve the lunar hardware, though a set of 4 telescopes in the southern hemisphere are going to be used to do interferometry with a baseline of up to 200 meters and that might get to the resolution we'd need to marginally recognize the largest items left with the crude shape of those items starting to become recognizable. While we have no chance at seeing the Apollo artifacts in these images from HST, there is a lighter discolored area in just about the right spot on the highest resolution images in the set which might be caused by the lunar module descent engine scouring the surface during the final moments of landing almost 33 years ago.

BTW, if you bring up the large image of the Apollo 17 site, the top right image showing the rover and one of the two crewmembers on the rim of Shorty crater where they found orange soil can be seen in the left image and is at the dark spot in the light landslide material that extends out across the Taurus-Littrow valley that is left of the red "X" that marks the landing site.


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