(some of) China gets it

(some of) China gets it

(some of) China gets it

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Dec. 3 2007 10:24 AM

(some of) China gets it

The Chang'e-1 probe is a Chinese mission to map the Moon. It's been returning some nice images, and -- shocker -- some people have doubted their authenticity.

What is surprising is that it's not the usual boneheads here in the states, but "Chinese Internet users" who have cast doubts. A Reuters article released today says that some people in China think the images looks a bit too much like one released by NASA back in 2005.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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There were two craters on a certain spot of the Chinese photo, but there was only one on that same spot of the American picture, the Beijing News quoted [Chang'e-1 chief scientist Ouyang Ziyuan] as saying.

"Maybe it's because the resolution of the American photo was not high enough, or a new pit might have been generated by an asteroid hitting the moon between 2005 and 2007," Ouyang said.

Personally, I strongly doubt it's a new crater, unless it was on the far side. An impact of any decent size would probably have been spotted. However, the article is short on details: I don't know what crater they mean, what size it is, or even what 2005 NASA image they mean. NASA hasn't had a lunar mission since Lunar Prospector crashed into the lunar south pole region in 1999. It must have been a ground-based image, or else they mean it was taken by the European probe SMART-1. Or it may have been the Hubble images released in 2005 (Hubble's resolution of the lunar surface is only about 150-200 meters, so Chang'e-1 actually would take higher-res images). But those images were of the Moon's northern hemisphere, not southern, which was the target of the Chang'e-1 images.

So I'm a little baffled by all this. Hopefully someone with better resources (and more time) than I have can look into this a little deeper. I'd actually like to see the two images side-by-side to see how much better the Chinese probe can do!

Hat tip to Dan Durda and the other folks who sent this to me.