Japanese Lunar Orbiter Slams Into Moon

The Japanese lunar orbiter Kaguya has completed its main mission. But there was one final scientific endeavor: It slammed into the moon's surface at about 2:25 p.m. EDT (18:25 UT) Wednesday.

The impact occured on the near-side of the moon, in the dark area close to the limb, at lunar coordinates 80°E and 64°S, said European astronomers, who mapped out the expected impact site using images from the the European Space Agency's SMART-1 lunar orbiter, which was also purposely crashed into the moon in 2006.

SMART-1 images show that the Kaguya satellite's impact site is in an ancient cratered highland.

Among other work, Kaguya beamed back a spectacular movie earlier this year of Earth eclipsing the sun as seen from the moon. It also provided fresh data on the composition of the moon's mysterious far side.

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Amateur skywatchers with telescopes and some experience may have seen the event from Earth.

"The timing favors telescopic observers in east Asia, Australia and New Zealand, who may be able to see a brief flash of light or a plume of debris rising from the Moon's southeastern limb," according to Spaceweather.com.

Scientists hope to learn something about lunar composition by observing the debris that's kicked up.

They'll also later compare the pre-impact SMART-1 images to subsequent photographs taken by other spacecraft after the controlled crash landing.

"We hope that future data will show the elongated crater that will form due to the Kaguya impact and bouncing secondary debris," said Bernard Foing, ESA's former SMART-1 Project Scientist.

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