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International Year of Astronomy
Observe the Moon Night
Aug 1, 2009
Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)

photo of child viewing moon through telescope
Photo credit: NASA Ames Research Center / Eric James

By all accounts, Observe the Moon Night at NASA's Ames Research Center on Aug. 1, 2009 was a success, despite the early arrival of fog. A lively and enthusiastic gathering of nearly 500 people assembled for a chance to look at the moon. Waiting for them were dozens of local amateur astronomers with telescopes of various sizes and capabilities, eager to share their love of backyard astronomy.

The visitors, many of whom were children, waited patiently in line at the various telescopes to get a glimpse of the moon though the increasing cloud cover.

"Wow, look Mom, we haven't seen this part of the moon before…so many craters!," said a young girl at the telescope of local astronomer, Jim Varney. She followed with the question, "What are all of those lines?" Varney looked through the telescope and confirmed that she was looking at features called rilles. These are long, narrow depressions in the lunar surface that resemble channels.


As the cloud cover increasingly obscured the view of the moon, some of the astronomers pointed their telescopes at terrestrial features. One favorite was the rotating light atop the historic Hangar One near the end of the plaza. The lack of the moon viewing also sparked small discussions as the astronomers began preparing to pack their telescopes.

Waves of people made their way to the information tables for the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) and Kepler missions and the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI). The visitors were eager to get the latest about NASA and asked about other events that they and their children could attend for this type of science experience.

During the year 2009, the world is celebrating the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) as it commemorates the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s use of a telescope to study the skies. Observe the Moon Night at NASA Ames Research Center was sponsored by the LCROSS mission and the NLSI to celebrate this occasion. The LCROSS spacecraft successfully launched with the Lunar Reconnaissance Obiter from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on June 18, 2009. LCROSS will impact a permanently shadowed crater on the lunar south pole on Oct. 9, 2009 in search of water-ice. The NLSI supplements and extends existing NASA lunar science programs and is supported by the NASA Science Mission Directorate and the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.

Despite the early roll-in of the fog and overcast skies, the visitors to Observe the Moon Night left happy and many planned on coming back in October for the LCROSS impacts. "It was fun looking at the moon," said eight-year old Rolle. "We'll be back when the rocket crashes into the moon."


Visit the NASA Mission Site @ http://www.nasa.gov/lcross

 
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Editor: Brian Day
NASA Official: Daniel Andrews
Last Updated: October 2009