October 25th, 2007

Moon red

Astro(nautical)-image of the day: China goes to the Moon

Yesterday, China successfully launched their first Moon probe, the Chang'e One lunar orbiter, aboard a Long March 3A booster rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the Sichuan province of southwest China. Here it is in various stages of preparation and launch:

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The probe is planned to orbit the moon for at least one year, mapping and studying its surface for a future Moon rover-return mission planned for launch in 2012. Chang'e One uses advanced cameras and x-ray spectrometers to and analyze the Moon's surface and make 3-D images. Here's Chang'e One in orbit around the Moon:

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Chang'e One is named for a Chinese goddess who flew to the Moon. Here she is:

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Here's the planned rover:

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All of this is preparation for China's manned lunar landing in 15 years.


Astro-image of the day: Comet 17P/Holmes

This is really cool: Almost overnight, the comet 17P/Holmes has just brightened from 17th magnitude (invisible to all but large telescopes) to 3rd magnitude (brighter than most stars) - so it's now easily visible to your naked eye!

Here's where to find it:

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According to Astronomy Magazine's online story, "For observers at mid-northern latitudes... the comet lies about 30° high — one-third of the way from the horizon to straight overhead — at 9 p.m. local daylight time... the comet climbs directly overhead between 2 and 3 a.m. You'll have to contend with a nearly Full Moon all night, but you still should see the comet plainly."

Check it out! Let's hope it stays this bright after the Moon wanes a bit to make it more easily visible.