Recent research conducted by the Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter (LRO) team indicates that moonquakes on our Moon were caused by active lunar faults -- meaning that the Moon is currently tectonically active and that the moonquakes are a result of the shrinking Moon.
I’ve done a lot of “cool” things as an educator at this Museum: performed a solar system dance with Miss America, chatted with astronauts, and given people their first awe-inspiring views through a telescope. But I have to say, my most recent experience was truly out of this world. On Monday, October 19, 2015, I participated in the second Astronomy Night at the White House. This event is designed to get youth excited about astronomy, space exploration, science, and engineering.
You may have heard about the “supermoon eclipse” that will happen this Sunday, September 27. Sounds pretty exciting! But what does it mean? Let’s start with the “supermoon” part. The Moon’s orbit around the Earth is not a perfect circle; it’s an ellipse, which means that the distance between the Moon and the Earth changes over the course of a month. When the Moon is in the part of its orbit that brings it closest to Earth, the perigee, it appears larger in our sky.
Planetary science is one of those fields of research where you can always count on being surprised. The remarkable terrain of Pluto and Charon in images being sent back by the New Horizons spacecraft certainly qualifies. One of my all-time big surprises is from a recent discovery on an object much closer to home—the Moon.
When most people think of emergency fixes in space, the first incident that comes to mind is the famous Apollo 13 mission. The astronauts fashioned duct tape and surplus materials into air filtration canisters in the lunar module to keep all three astronauts alive for the entire trip home.
Much of the Moon is blanketed by a thick layer of dust, built up from the rocky surface over billions of years by the impacts of small meteorites. Hidden beneath the dust is evidence of ancient geologic activity – great volcanic eruptions, tectonic shifts in the crust, and vast deposits of once-molten material hurled outward during the formation of the giant impact basins.
It was particularly timely that during the hustle and bustle of the 2014 holidays, I, along with curators Jennifer Levasseur and Cathleen Lewis, had a very special package to open for the very first time.
There is no question that the success of Project Apollo in the 1960s helped to create a culture of competence for NASA that translated into a level of confidence in American capability, and especially in the ability of government to perform effectively, to resolve any problem. Something that almost sounds unthinkable in the early twenty-first century but such was indeed the case in the 1960s.
If you live in North America or western South America, you have a treat in store for you tonight or early tomorrow morning: a total lunar eclipse! If you live elsewhere in the world, or if it’s cloudy in your location – as it probably will be tonight at our location in Washington, DC – you can still see the eclipse online. Several websites will host live streams. Some of their locations will be clouded out, so we recommend that you search for “lunar eclipse live stream” and browse the results. You can also participate in a live web chat during the eclipse with NASA astronomers.
In July, I joined a team from Johnson Space Center and elsewhere in investigating the geology of Apollo Valley with rover-deployed scientific instruments. Apollo Valley is a former 1960s Apollo-era astronaut training site at 3,505 meters (11,500 feet) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The project was funded by NASA's Moon and Mars Analog Mission Activities Program, which funds projects that simulate scientific, robotic, and human aspects of exploring the Moon and Mars, with the goal of designing the most effective, efficient, and well-integrated future missions.