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New double crater seen on the moon's surface after a mysterious rocket collides

New double crater seen on the moon’s surface after a mysterious rocket collides

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The moon has a new double crater after a rocket object hit its surface on March 4.

New images released by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting the moon since 2009, reveal the location of the unusual crater.

The collision created two overlapping craters, an eastern crater 59 feet (18 m) wide and a western crater 52.5 feet (16 m) across. Together, they create a depression about 91.8 feet (28 m) wide in the longest dimension.

Although astronomers expected the impact after discovering that the rocket segment was on the right track to collide with the Moon, the double crater it created came as a surprise.

Expendable rockets usually have the most mass at the end of the engine because the rest of the rocket is a largely empty fuel tank. But the double crater indicates that this object had large masses at both ends when it collided with the moon.

The exact origin of the rocket’s body, a piece of space junk that’s been rocking for years, is unclear, so the double crater could help astronomers determine what it was.

The Moon lacks a protective atmosphere, so it is full of craters that form when objects such as asteroids regularly hit the surface.

This was the first time a piece of space junk had inadvertently hit the lunar surface and that experts know about. But the craters were caused by a spacecraft deliberately colliding with the moon.

The new crater is smaller than the other crater and not visible in this view, but its location is indicated by the white arrow.

For example, four large lunar craters attributed to the Apollo 13, 14, 15, and 17 missions are all significantly larger than each of the overlapping craters that originated during the March 4 impact. However, the maximum width of a file The new double crater is similar to the Apollo craters.

Bill Gray, an independent researcher focusing on orbital dynamics and astronomical software developer, was The first to discover the trajectory of the booster missile.

Gray initially identified it as SpaceX Falcon rocket stage that launched the US Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, In 2015 but later He said he got it wrong It was most likely from a 2014 Chinese lunar mission – an assessment approved by NASA.

However, China The Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied The booster from the Chang’e-5 mission was the moon, saying that The missile in question burned up upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

There are no agencies systematically tracking space debris so far from Earth, and confusion about the origin of the rocket’s stage has emphasized the need for official agencies to closely monitor waste in deep space, rather than relying on the limited resources of personnel and academics. .

However, experts say the biggest challenge is space debris in low Earth orbit, an area where it can collide with working satellites, create more unwanted waste and threaten human life aboard manned spacecraft.

There are at least 26,000 pieces of space junk orbiting the Earth the size of a softball or larger and could destroy a satellite on impact; Over 500,000 marble-sized pieces – big enough to damage spacecraft or satellites; And more than 100 million pieces the size of a grain of salt, tiny debris that can nonetheless puncture a space suit, according to a NASA report released last year.

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