Moon and Spica

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Moon and Spica

The Moon passes by the star Spica the next couple of nights. The brightest star of Virgo is below the Moon as they climb into good view this evening, but closer above the Moon tomorrow night.

One prominent lunar feature is the Sea of Crises. It’s a dark round patch near the top of the lunar disk as the Moon climbs up the sky. It’s the target site for a robotic lander scheduled for launch later this year.

Known as Ghost 1, the lander will carry a suite of experiments. Some of them will study the “regolith” — the layer of dust and small rocks at the surface. One experiment could drill as much as six feet into that layer to measure heat coming from the Moon’s interior. That’ll reveal more about how the Moon is put together.

Another experiment is a vacuum cleaner — Lunar PlanetVac. It will suck up a few ounces of material, and separate it by the sizes of the particles. Dust grains will go into one bin, slightly larger particles into another, and pebbles into yet another. Unlike the “scoops” on robotic arms that’ve been used on other missions, PlanetVac can be moved around the spacecraft, allowing it to suck up material from wherever scientists want.

The experiment is designed mainly to test the technology. Such a system might be used on future missions that will analyze different-sized particles, or sort them for return to Earth — learning about the Moon and other worlds with a vacuum cleaner.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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