NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spots rocket impact site on moon

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spots rocket impact site on moon
A rocket body impacted the Moon on March 4, 2022, near Hertzsprung crater, creating a double crater roughly 28 meters wide in the longest dimension. LROC NAC M1407760984R; image enlarged 3x. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Astronomers discovered a rocket body heading toward a lunar collision late last year. Impact occurred March 4, with NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter later spotting the resulting crater. Surprisingly the crater is actually two craters, an eastern crater (18-meter diameter, about 19.5 yards) superimposed on a western crater (16-meter diameter, about 17.5 yards).

The double crater was unexpected and may indicate that the rocket body had large masses at each end. Typically a spent rocket has mass concentrated at the motor end; the rest of the rocket stage mainly consists of an empty fuel tank. Since the origin of the rocket body remains uncertain, the double nature of the crater may indicate its identity.

No other rocket body impacts on the Moon created double craters. The four Apollo SIV-B craters were somewhat irregular in outline (Apollos 13, 14, 15, 17) and were substantially larger (greater than 35 meters, about 38 yards) than each of the double craters. The maximum width (29 meters, about 31.7 yards) of the double of the mystery rocket body was near that of the S-IVBs.

  • NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spots rocket impact site on moon
    The crater formed (5.226 degrees north, 234.486 degrees east, 1,863 meters elevation) in a complex area where the impact of ejecta from the Orientale basin event overlies the degraded northeast rim of Hertzsprung basin (536 kilometers diameter). The new crater is not visible in this view, but its location is indicated by the white arrow. LROC WAC mosaic, 110 kilometers width. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
  • NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spots rocket impact site on moon
    These four images show craters formed by impacts of the Apollo SIV-B stages: crater diameters range from 35 to 40 meters (38.2 to 43.7 yards) in the longest dimension. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
  • NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spots rocket impact site on moon
    Full resolution (100 cm pixels) image centered on the new rocket body impact double crater. NAC M1407760984R, image width 1,100 meters. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

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Citation: NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spots rocket impact site on moon (2022, June 24) retrieved 16 August 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-nasa-lunar-reconnaissance-orbiter-rocket.html
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