A piece of space junk hit the moon. Surprisingly, scientists are excited

Usually when a nation-state or a company accidentally sends a piece of junk space flying out of control, breaking something, others get upset. Here’s a notable exception: a piece of junk space appears collided with the moon At nearly 5,800 mph on March 4th, scientists are excited. While the accident highlights an ongoing problem with human exploration of debris-laden space, it may also provide scientists with an opportunity to learn more about Earth’s moon’s geology.

The moon is full of mystery, from How does it affect our sleep cycles? to me The presence of carbon dioxide “traps” It could theoretically be used one day to help people establish lunar colonies. However, on this occasion, it may in fact be able to help demystify – namely, what the impact crater on the Moon looks like immediately after formation. In the process, this could help scientists date craters on the Moon and improve our geological understanding of Earth’s natural satellite.

“The impact of the upcoming rocket will provide a serendipitous experiment that can reveal a lot about how natural collisions strike and clean up the surfaces of planets,” quipped planetary scientist Paul Heine of the University of Colorado Boulder, who studies the moon, in SciTechDaily’s last article. “A deeper understanding of the physics of the impact will go a long way in helping researchers explain the arid landscapes of the Moon as well as the effects on Earth and other planets.”

The piece of space junk in question is an expendable booster rocket of unknown origin: suspected culprits range from a Chinese rocket to a SpaceX rocket, though everyone unsurprisingly disavows ownership. Either way, scientists can confirm that the object is about 40 feet long and weighs about 10,000 pounds. After it made an impact, it was likely that a shock wave had emanated through her entire body while her rear end was destroyed. Metal debris flying in all directions. If scientists can find the impact crater, they can learn more about the exact way it created the moon’s surface from pulverized rock on the airless landscape.

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Bill Gray, author of Project Pluto A program that monitors Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and the first person to discover the path of collision of space junk with the Moon, posted on its blog, “I especially wished that the booster would hit on the near side, in an unlit area, near the first or last quarter; that’s supposed to be Visible from the ground. But we have to be very lucky for that.”

“When you think this is our first unintended lunar collision, the level of luck needed goes up,” he added.

Since this object had landed on the far side of the Moon, ground-based telescopes were unable to observe its actual impact. However, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will be able to image the impact crater in about two weeks, once its orbit takes it above the impact crater. As Heine wrote—recalling a 2009 project he was involved in that intentionally entailed a satellite crash into a shaded crater near the Moon’s south pole—”The accidental experience of the upcoming collision will give planetary scientists the opportunity to spot a very similar crater in daylight.”

Although the collision of an expendable rocket booster with the moon may be a coincidence, the larger problem of space junk is very serious. Astronomy scientists Appreciation That nearly 30,000 objects orbited the Earth completely by accident after humans put them there: discarded parts from space stations and rockets, paint chips and broken equipment, lost equipment like spoons and cameras, shrapnel from collisions and even frozen pieces of urine. Its combined mass is estimated at more than 9,600 tons, and it can be as large as a Greyhound bus. They are all stuck in the region known as Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which is defined as the region 125 to 1,200 miles above the planet’s surface.

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Related: 40 SpaceX satellites destroyed by astronomers due to a geomagnetic storm

One possible solution to the problem of space junk is to send other vehicles up to pick it up and release it into Earth’s atmosphere, where it will burn up when it re-enters. spacecraft called Elsa-D Last year (End of Life Services) was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for this purpose. John Auburn, managing director of Astroscale UK, told NBC News at the time that “it was very complicated because you have to exactly match the motion of the spacecraft you’re docking into. When a spacecraft docks with the International Space Station, that’s a very controlled maneuver. But If you’re trying to dock with a failed satellite, it can be choppy and you have to come together very slowly as if you were performing a dance.”

Compare the problem to the plastic pollution Outside the ocean, noting that “This is a problem like plastic in the ocean. We’ve worked for eight years to turn a tough problem into a business.”

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