moon news 2003

31 may 2003: "ring of fire" for northern observers

Eclipse watchers converged on Scotland and Greenland yesterday to see an unusual annular eclipse of the Sun. A partical eclipse was visible from much of Asia, Europe and North America, but in some North Atlantic areas the Moon appeared to pass directly in front of the Sun. Because the Moon was at a more distant part of its eliptical orbit its disc was too small to totally cover the Sun, leaving a bright ring or 'annulus'. Also, because of the extreme latitude of the eclipse path, the shadow travelled from east to west - the opposite direction to usual.

Full story from BBC News and Sky & Telescope

20 may 2003: moon hoax wins film award

A film society has won a British Federation of Film Society award for a marketing campaign in which it claimed it was going to project rare film footage onto the Moon. The Real Institute, based in Wales, issued a press release stating that it was planning to use 'lunar boost technology' to project Super 8 footage of the disastrous Voskhod 2 space mission of 1965, allegedly previously suppressed by the Russians, onto the dark side of the Moon. Despite the obvious impracticality of the plan and the nonsensical technology proposed, the spoof generated considerable media interest.

Full story from BBC News

16 may 2003: moon darkened by earth's shadow

Skywatchers observing last night's lunar eclipse reported mixed success. Much of Britain and the eastern United States suffered from cloud cover, but observers from many other parts of Europe and the Americas had a fine view of a darker-than-usual eclipse.

Full story from Sky & Telescope and BBC News

24 april 2003: "bunker busters" to hit the moon

Researchers have been testing proposals to use "Bunker Buster" technology in probes designed to penetrate the Moon's surface. The "Polar Night" orbiter would use the probes to search for water beneath the lunar surface, and could be ready to launch by 2007.

Full story from BBC News

14 april 2003: jupiter reaches 60 moons

The teams led by Scott Sheppard and David Jewitt of the University of Hawaii and Brett Gladman of the University of British Columbia have each discovered a further moon of Jupiter, taking its total to 60. The IAU has assigned temporary designations of S/2003 J19 and S/2003 J20.

Full story from Sky & Telescope

9 april 2003: more moons for jupiter and saturn

The torrent of satellite discoveries continues unabated, as the competing teams led by Scott Sheppard and David Jewitt of the University of Hawaii and Brett Gladman of the University of British Columbia - both using the 3.6 metre Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea - independently found six new moons. The International Astronomical Union have credited three to each team, and assigned temporary designations S/2003 J13 to S/2003 J18. Sheppard and Jewitt's team has also announced a new moon for Saturn, designated S/2003 S1. All of the discoveries are small irregular moons, taking Jupiter's moon count to 58 and Saturn's to 31.

Full story from Sky & Telescope and BBC News on Jupiter and Saturn

4 april 2003: europe unfolds moon plans

The European Space Agency (ESA) has unveiled more details of its plans for lunar exploration, centred on the Smart 1 probe due for launch in July. The probe, which will map the moon in X-rays, may be followed by a lunar exploration programme involving a lander and rovers.

Full story from BBC News

4 april 2003: india moon mission on course

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has confirmed that it intends to send a remote-sensing satellite to the Moon, probably in 2008. There are no plans to send an astronaut at this stage.

Full story from BBC News

26 march 2003: us government wins moon rock legal battle

A federal judge has awarded ownership of a piece of moon rock, valued at $5 million, to the US Government. The rock, originally given to the government of Honduras by former US President Richard Nixon in 1973, was siezed from Florida businessman Alan Rosen by government agents in 1998.

Full story from BBC News

20 march 2003: lunar meteorite puzzle solved?

For 20 years, scientists have been puzzled that meteorites originating from the Moon and Mars occur is roughly equal quantities. The interplanetary rocks, which were ejected during crater-forming impacts and are mostly found in the Sahara desert and Antarctica, should be predominantly lunar, due to Mars' stronger gravity and greater distance. It has now been suggested that decreasing impact rates coupled with shorter transit times from the Moon mean that most lunar rocks arrived long ago and have been weathered away.

Full story from Sky & Telescope

6 march 2003: more moons for jupiter

Another swathe of small irregular moons has been discovered, this time around Jupiter. The seven satellites, discovered by Scott Sheppard and David Jewitt of the University of Hawaii and Jan Kleyna of Cambridge University, bring Jupiter's total to 47 - much the largest family in the solar system. They have been temporarily designated S/2003 J1 to S/2003 J7.

Full story from BBC News

5 march 2003: photograph was not lunar impact

Doubts have been cast on the recent claims that a photograph taken by Leon Stuart in 1957 show a the impact of a house-sized meteorite on the Moon. Reservations have been expressed about the reported duration of the flash, and statistical objections have been raised too, but the most convincing problem is that the crater appears in photographs taken with the 100-inch Hooker telescope on Mount Wilson in 1919.

Full story from Sky & Telescope

4 march 2003: european lunar mission set for july

Despite problems with the Ariane launcher which affected the Smart 1 probe's original March launch date, the operators - Arianespace - have set a new date for July. The lunar orbiter probe will test several new technologies, including a highly efficient ion drive.

Full story from BBC News

3 march 2003: chinese moon landing possible in under three years

Just months before China's widely anticipated bid to become the third nation to put a man onto Earth orbit, the chief scientist of China's lunar exploration programme has told journalists that they will be in a position to send an unmanned mission to the Moon in as little as 2½ years.

Full story from BBC News

10 january 2003: could big burp explain moon's mysteries?

Scientist have created a computer model which suggest that a huge "burp" of hot rock released early in the Moon's history could account for a number of geological mysteries. It would allow rapid cooling of the lunar core, creating a temporary global magnetic field, traces of which have been found in Apollo lunar samples. It could also explain the dark, basaltic maria which cover much of the Moon's near side.

Full story from Spaceflight Now

14 january 2003: more moons for neptune

For the first time since the Voyager missions of the late 1980's, new satellites have been discovered orbiting Neptune. The three satellites, discovered by the teams led by led by JJ Kavelaars of the National Research Council of Canada and Matthew Holman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, have been provisionally designated S/2002 N1 to S/2002 N3, and take Neptunes moon-count to 11.

Full story from BBC News

6 january 2003: india joins asian moon race

Following the launch of its first weather satellite in September 2002, India has announced that it intends to launch a mission to the Moon by 2007. Although it ruled out sending an astronaut, India looks to be rising to the challenge presented by China's recent manned Earth orbit missions.

Full story from BBC News plus comment