Planetary Science

Teasing Out the Plume

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Science  29 Nov 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6162, pp. 1020
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6162.1020-c

On 9 October 2009, the second stage of the rocket that launched the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter plunged into the Cabeus crater on the south pole of the Moon, lifting a plume of debris, dust, and vapor that contained water. The plume and its contents were detected by the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite Shepherding Spacecraft that followed the impacting rocket stage into the crater (see Research Articles, 22 October 2010, p. 463). Apart from a sodium enhancement in the exosphere of the Moon, no Earth-based detections were reported, even though observations were attempted. Strycker et al. used a principal-components analysis to tease out the impact plume from visible images obtained on 9 October 2009 with the Agile camera on the Astrophysical Research Consortium 3.5-m telescope at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, USA. Their analysis reveals that the plume had separate low- and high-angle components, as suggested by previous results from laboratory work but not verified by the observations made by the Shepherding Spacecraft. The study also confirms that the concentration of water ice in the regolith at the impact site is about 6% by mass.

Nat. Commun. 4, 2620 (2013).

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