Kaguya's final moments

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June 19 2009 11:15 AM

Kaguya's final moments

The Japanese Space Agency JAXA has released images taken from the lunar probe Kaguya's final moments. Here's one of a crater in a hillside taken minutes before the spacecraft slammed into the Moon:

Kaguya’s final images

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There are seven images released, linked from this page (translated into English using Google). The last image is mostly black with just the tops of the hills lit by sunlight; Kaguya's impact point was on the near side of the Moon in an area where the Sun had just set. You can see all the long shadows in the images!

I still haven't heard much news about the impact, but it may take some time before all the data are processed and studied. In the meantime, LRO is on its way to the Moon, and will continue the task of mapping our satellite. LRO's mission is to pave the way for future exploration of the Moon, leading up to another giant leap for mankind.

I wonder if, someday, people will take tours of all these impact sites, the way people today visit Plymouth Rock? I like to think so.

Tip o' the Whipple Shield to Emily Lakdawalla.

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