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How NASA’s Lunar Orbiter was Struck by a Meteoroid and Survived to Tell the Tale

This image from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter narrow-angle camera (NAC) shows jagged lines caused by a meteoroid impact in Oct. 2014. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University)

On October 13, 2014, something rather…striking…happened to one of the cameras aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has been imaging the Moon from lunar orbit since 2008. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), which normally produces beautifully clear images of the lunar surface, produced an image that was wild and jittery. From the sudden and jagged pattern apparent in the image, the LROC team determined that the camera must have been hit by a tiny meteoroid, a piece of space debris no larger than the head of a pin but traveling much faster than a bullet.

“A meteoroid impact on the LROC NAC reminds us that LRO is constantly exposed to the hazards of space,” says Noah Petro, deputy project scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “And as we continue to explore the Moon, it reminds us of the precious nature of the data being returned.”

Read the full story from NASA here: Camera on NASA’s Lunar Orbiter Survived 2014 Meteoroid Hit


Oh What a Relief! Cool 3D Views of the Moon via LROC

Red/cyan anaglyph of Hell Q crater on the Moon's near side  (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

Red/blue anaglyph of Hell Q crater on the Moon’s near side (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

Do you have any of those paper 3D viewers around? You know, with the red and blue lenses? If so, pop ’em on and check out the image above from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) showing the crater “Hell Q,” located on the Moon’s southern near side near the brightly-rayed Tycho. You might think a crater was just carved into your screen!

The 3.75-km-wide Hell Q is one of a cluster of 19 craters located around the main 32.5-km Hell crater. (And no, it wasn’t named after a realm of the afterworld but rather for Hungarian astronomer Maximillian Hell.)

The image was acquired on April 11, 2014. You can see a larger 3D view of the region around Hell Q below.

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Annular Eclipse Seen From The Moon

Animation of four LROC images of the annular eclipse (CLICK TO PLAY) NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

May 20, 2012 eclipse photographed from Texas (© Jason Major)

May 20, 2012 eclipse photographed from Texas (© Jason Major)

The May 20 annular eclipse may have been an awesome sight for skywatchers across many parts of the Earth, but it was also being viewed by a robotic explorer around the Moon!

During the event NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter turned its camera to look back home, acquiring several images of the Earth with the Moon’s fuzzy shadow cast onto different regions during the course of the eclipse. The image above is a 4-panel zoom into one particular NAC image showing the Moon’s shadow over the Aleutian Islands.

Read the rest of this article here.


Long shadows are cast by sunlit boulders crowding a hill in Anaxagoras crater on the Moon.

This image taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) shows an area known as an impact melt – a result of the original collision that created the 50-kilometer-wide crater. Because of the lack of obvious large impacts in the area, it’s thought that the boulders seen here may be eroding out of the hill itself.

Most of the boulders seen here are approximately 10 – 30 meters wide.

Read more on the LROC site by Arizona State University here.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Craters Young and Old


These two craters on the Moon are less than half a mile apart but separated by billions of years

This image from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) shows two similarly-sized craters in the Oceanus Procellarum (“Sea of Storms”) region of the Moon – a large mare on the Earth-facing side, on the northwestern edge. One crater is surrounded and covered by boulders and debris, denoting its young age compared to the smooth, degraded features of its older neighbor.

The younger crater on the right is approximately 1,300 feet (400 meters) across.

Although the Moon does not have weather to wear down its surface features like Earth does, it does get constantly bombarded by tiny particles of space debris, called micrometeorites. This steady rain serves to gradually soften the sharp edges of surface features like craters and ridges over the course of many hundreds of millions of years.

As it’s said on the LROC site at Arizona State University, “visit the crater on the right in about a billion or two years and you will see it looking similar to the degraded crater on the left.” Mark that on your calendar!

If you are very patient, visit the crater on the right in about a billion or two years and you will see it looking similar to the degraded crater on the left. Be careful though – when you show up the crater on the left may no longer be around!

Click here to explore a larger, zoomable view of the entire region imaged.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

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