NASA’s GRAIL mission sent back its first video of the dark side of the moon. This short clip certainly left me wanting more.
It’s been a busy, busy week! I haven’t had time to write very much, so I’ll do a quick round-up of this week’s news.
Like I’ve said, it seems as if we are finding new planets every day. 2012 isn’t going to be any different. The year started off with the discovery of four gas giants, which according to this abstract, are larger than Jupiter. Jupiter! Wow. The planets are called HAT-P-34b, HAT-P-35b, HAT-P-36b, and HAT-P-37b.
We really have to come up with better names.
I wrote my first piece for Universe Today earlier this week. Yah! The article is about a concept airplane mission to Titan – Saturn’s largest moon. The plan, dubbed AVIATR (pretty neat, huh?), would allow for a plane to soar through Titan’s skies and study its geography, atmosphere, and even potential landing sites for future missions. You gotta check out the story here.
NASA’s GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) mission celebrated an exciting week. Two of the mission’s spacecrafts – GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B – finally reached the moon’s orbit. The goal of the mission is to map the moon from the surface to its core using gravity. Read more about the mission and what we could learn in this Space Oddities post.
The Mars rover Opportunity will be spending the winter in a place called “Greeley Haven.” Want to see what it looks like? Look here. I love seeing photographs of Mars’ surface.
Did you know there have been 71 missions to the moon? 71!
Yet despite all the research, there are still many mysteries that surround our moon.
Hoping to solve perhaps one mystery is NASA’s newest mission: GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory). Twin probes – each the size of washing machines – are expected to launch Saturday morning after several weather-related delays.
GRAIL’s goal is to map the moon from its surface to its core using gravity. Understanding the moon, scientists say, will give us information about how planets were formed. It can give us an insight to our past, as well as our future. After all, we don’t really understand the moon’s gravitational pull on Earth. It affects our tides, and some believe our minds, too. But why? And how?
Finding out what lies in the moon’s core will also help us understand this mystery: Why is the far side of the moon so different from the side that we see.
From Earth, we can only see one side of the moon. Its craters, which look like a human face, are actually lava-filled basins. (There aren’t any active volcanoes on the moon, but scientists believe that it was once a lava-flowing ocean) While there are craters on the far side of the moon, they weren’t filled with lava. Why? There’s a lot of money riding on GRAIL finding out.
And what about the mysterious flashes of colored light that observers have seen on the moon for hundreds of years? Scientists have called this light TLP, or Transient Lunar Phenomena.
Some believe the moon is emitting gas clouds from its once volcanic past; others say small objects are crashing onto the moon, causing debris to spew onto the surface. And yes, there are a few who say little green men are responsible.
We don’t really know what is causing the TLP, but maybe if we understood what the moon is made of, it’ll help us understand what’s happening on its surface.
When will we hear anything? Well, GRAIL won’t start mapping the moon for six months. Then it’s going to take 82 days for the actual science to happen.
Yeah, it’ll be awhile.