The big telescope at the Herrett Center for Arts and Science will be watching when a rocket from NASA slams into the Moon’s South Pole at 5:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 9. Early risers are invited to see the event live and have breakfast at the Herrett Center.
Centennial Observatory manager Chris Anderson, who is coordinating the event, will have the Herrett Telescope trained on the point of impact by 4:30 a.m. when the doors open. Guests are welcome to go directly upstairs to the Centennial Observatory for viewing that will begin at that time. At 5 a.m., guests will be seated in the Faulkner Planetarium while the observatory is configured to deliver live video of the impact to the audience. The actual impact is scheduled for 5:30 a.m. and a breakfast in the Rick Allen Community Room will follow at 6 a.m. If the sky over Twin Falls is too cloudy for actual telescope viewing that morning, the planetarium will provide a video signal from NASA.
The NASA mission is called LCROSS, which stands for Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite. A lunar spacecraft that was launched earlier this summer will fire its Centaur booster at the permanently dark floor of the Moon’s South Pole. The resulting explosion is expected to eject a plume of material that will be studied for the presence, or absence, of ice and vapor. The mission is considered crucial before any long-term lunar missions can be planned. It would not be practical to send astronauts to the moon with the amount of water they would need for a long mission. If ice is found on the Moon, it would indicate the possibility of sustaining astronauts with lunar resources. The mission is also mapping the Moon’s surface to characterize future landing sites.
Tickets to the event, which includes all viewing and breakfast, are $8 for ages 12 and older and $4 for children under 12. Since seating in the Faulkner Planetarium is limited, it is recommended that tickets be purchased in advance. All tickets available that morning will be sold at the door. Proceeds from the event will be used for future Herrett Center programs. For more information, call the Herrett Center at 208-732-6655 or log on to www.csi.edu/herrett.