Add another crater to the long list of blisters on the moon’s surface.
According to orbital calculations, a rocket that has been rushing through space for years has crashed the moon Friday, but the strike was not directly monitored, and there may be a wait for photographic evidence.
Astronomer Bill Gray, who first predicted the collision, said the collision would have occurred at 7:25 a.m. EDT (1225 GMT), on the far side of the moon.
The four-ton body is racing across the universe at about 5,800 mph (9,300 km/h) and is expected to make a hole “10 or 20 meters wide,” Gray told AFP.
Its speed, trajectory and impact time were calculated using ground-based telescope observations.
“We had a lot (and a lot) of tracking data for the object, and there’s no effect on it other than gravitational forces and sunlight,” he said, the latter gently pushing the cylinder away from the sun.
“Unless the body is removed by a mysterious hand, it hits the moon this morning.”
Identification of the missile has been a topic of debate since there is no official entity responsible for listing and tracking scrap in deep space.
Gray, an independent contractor who created orbital computation software used by NASA, searches for and monitors man-made debris, so that scientists don’t confuse it with asteroids and study it unnecessarily.
He initially thought what he was seeing was a SpaceX rocket, but later changed his mind and said it was a third stage booster from Chang’e 5-T1, launched in 2014 as part of the Chinese space agency’s lunar exploration program.
Beijing denied responsibility, saying the booster missile “has safely entered the Earth’s atmosphere and was completely incinerated”.
But according to Gray, the Chinese Foreign Ministry statement combined two missions with similar names and was actually talking about a missile launch much later.
Whatever the case, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and India’s Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, both orbiting the Moon, will be able to image the crater.
The US space agency said in late January that it wanted to survey the crater, but said finding it would be a challenge that could take “weeks to months.”
According to Gray, both probes are able to observe any region on the moon once a month.
It is not unusual for rocket stages in the universe to be abandoned after serving their purpose of launching spacecraft.
But this will be the first time that an unintended collision with the moon has been predicted.
A spacecraft has been deliberately crashed into the Moon before for scientific purposes, such as during the Apollo missions to test seismometers.
“Twitteraholic. Total bacon fan. Explorer. Typical social media practitioner. Beer maven. Web aficionado.”