As a 1 year long event, IYA2009 has worked hard to provide a steady stream of events. That said, some weeks are more interesting than others, and this week is shaping up to be one of those more interesting weeks. On October 7, Mr and Mrs Obama will host a star party at the US White House, and on the night of October 8/morning of October 9, the LCROSS mission will impact the Moon.
White House Star Party
There aren’t a lot of details, but here’s what I know. According to the White House Press Secratary, “the President and First Lady will host an event at the White
House for middle-school students to highlight the President’s commitment to science,
engineering and math education as the foundation of this nation’s global
technological and economic leadership and to express his support for astronomy in
particular – for its capacity to promote a greater awareness of our place in the
universe, expand human knowledge, and inspire the next generation by showing
them the beauty and mysteries of the night sky.” From what I’ve heard, around 200 middle school kids are going to be invited to participate. Helping these kids and the Obama’s celebrate the International Year of Astronomy will be a group of professional and amateur astronomers from all over the United States. According to the event organizer, “more than 20 telescopes [will be] set up on the White House lawn focused on Jupiter, the Moon and select stars; interactive dome presentations, and hands on activities including scale models of the Solar System, impact cratering, and investigating meteorites and Moon rocks.” An opening address and hopefully general coverage will be streamed on whitehouse.gov and on NASA TV.
At about 4:30am Pacific time on October 9 NASA is going to drop an empty rocket segment into the Cabeus A crater near the moon’s south pole. Hot on the heels of this large chunk of metal will be the LCROSS space craft and its cameras. The rocket section should throw a large plume of material into space that LCROSS will fly through and (before itself crashing into the moon) probe for water. The impact is timed to allow it to sorta be dark across most of the US (or at least everyone west of the Mississippi), and most importantly, to allow the telescopes in Hawaii to see all the details about what’s going on. Want to watch it yourself? To see anything interesting, you’ll really need a telescope of some girth – 12″ at a minimum, and really 16″ or larger is probably a better bet. You can find everything you need here. Better yet, check out streamed video live from the Exploratorium.