Blog posts with the tag Moon | Interested In Everything


Blog posts with the tag "Moon"

Yesterday, I stumbled across this story on a recent large lunar impact blast. I hadn’t heard about it at the time, but it’s an interesting one, nonetheless.  To summarise, last September, something fairly hefty crashed into the moon causing a blast that could be seen from the earth!


Being a curious sort of bloke, I downloaded the paper and had a quick read through last night to see what the facts are.  At around 8:00 PM on 11th September 2013, a meteorite collided with the moon’s surface.  The resulting explosion was calculated as being equivalent in power to 15 tonnes of TNT and the flash it produced was observed by several telescopes here on earth.


Strangely enough, I was having a discussion about lunar meteorites with a friend a few weeks ago after looking at a map of the moon and seeing the number of impact crates there. He asked me why there seem to be so many occurrences of things hitting out satellite, but very few on earth.  The swift answer to that is quite straightforward — atmosphere.


Unlike the earth, the moon has no appreciable atmosphere.  We can generally assume there is nothing surrounding the moon (there is actually a very small amount of gas surrounding it, but its density is less than one hundred trillionth of the earth’s atmosphere), so there is nothing that can put up any kind of resistance to any incoming objects.  Passing debris will get caught by the moon’s gravity and fall straight to the surface.


Contrast that with what tends to happen down here on earth.  Any chunks of cosmic debris coming close enough to us to get dragged down to the planet’s surface will encounter resistance in the form of our atmosphere, that layer of gases that surrounds the planet – mainly nitrogen and a fair bit of oxygen, thankfully.


This layer will create a considerable resistance for something that’s traveling at several thousand metres per second and cause a great deal of friction.  This friction causes the incoming object to heat up and thus, the vast majority of things that are hurtling towards us simply burn up before they hit the ground – just think of all those shooting stars you’ve seen!


Occasionally, though, the incoming objects are large enough to not completely disintegrate on their way through the air and they do impact.  This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it can be incredibly spectacular, although I wouldn’t want to be standing too close to one! The most recent occurrence of this was last February’s impact in Chelyabinsk. Even though that object made one hell of a bang, it was still quite unremarkable compared to the one that hit Tunguska in 1908. Thanks to our atmosphere protecting us, this kind of event is, fortunately, very rare!

One of my earliest childhood memories is back in 1969 when my mother pointed at the moon and said to me, “There’ll be somebody walking on that next week”.  Of course, I was far too young to fully appreciate the significance of such a thing, which is why I got quite excited when Mars One—a Netherlands-based private spaceflight project—announced that the first contracts to develop concepts for a Mars lander have been awarded. The possibility of landing a person on the red planet has just moved a tiny bit closer.


Apparently, if a manned exploratory mission scheduled for 2018 is successful, then this might mean it will be possible to start colonising Mars by 2025!  Does this mean that we might actually be getting nearer to the shiny, space-age world I was promised when I was a small boy?  I know that many words have been spoken on the subject of getting living humans to the surface of Mars over the years, but it would be great to think that it might be achievable after all. The mission’s date has been put back by two years, but what’s a couple of years in the grand scheme of things?  It gives me a bit extra time to work out which shirts I need to pack.


I wish the applicants who have signed up for the mission all the very best. Though this misshapen old body certainly won’t be able to withstand the punishment of space travel, I’ll be with them in spirit. The CEO of Mars One, Bas Lansdorp has compared the value of the mission’s video footage of the solar system to broadcast rights from the Olympic Games. As impressive as the last Olympics were, I’ve got to admit that I would much rather watch a Martian sunset. I’m slightly too young to have been able to appreciate the Apollo missions for what they were, so this time I intend to have a front row sit.