Dec 12

Most Accurate Gravity Map of Moon

Source: NASA


Twin NASA probes orbiting the moon have generated the highest resolution gravity field map of any celestial body.

The new map, created by the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, is allowing scientists to learn about the moon's internal structure and composition in unprecedented detail. Data from the two washing machine-sized spacecraft also will provide a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed and evolved.

The gravity field map reveals an abundance of features never before seen in detail, such as tectonic structures, volcanic landforms, basin rings, crater central peaks, and numerous simple, bowl-shaped craters. Data also show the moon's gravity field is unlike that of any terrestrial planet in our solar system.

These are the first scientific results from the prime phase of the mission, and they are published in three papers in the journal Science.

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Mar 12

GRAIL MoonKam Returns First Student-Selected Lunar Images

Source: NASA Science Releases

GRAIL MoonKAM Image. Image credits: NASA/GRAIL.

One of two NASA spacecraft orbiting the moon has beamed back the first student-requested pictures of the lunar surface from its onboard camera. Fourth grade students from the Emily Dickinson Elementary School in Bozeman, Mont., received the honor of making the first image selections by winning a nationwide competition to rename the two spacecraft.

The image was taken by the MoonKam, or Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students. Previously named Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) A and B, the twin spacecraft are now called Ebb and Flow. Both washing-machine-sized orbiters carry a small MoonKAM camera. Over 60 student-requested images were taken aboard  the Ebb spacecraft from March 15-17 and downlinked to Earth on March 20.

"MoonKAM is based on the premise that if your average picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture from lunar orbit may be worth a classroom full of engineering and science degrees," said Maria Zuber, GRAIL mission principal investigator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. "Through MoonKAM, we have an opportunity to reach out to the next generation of scientists and engineers. It is great to see things off to such a positive start."

GRAIL is NASA's first planetary mission to carry instruments fully dedicated to education and public outreach. Students will select target areas on the lunar surface and request images to study from the GRAIL MoonKAM Mission Operations Center in San Diego.

The MoonKAM program is led by Sally Ride, America's first woman in space, and her team at Sally Ride Science in collaboration with undergraduate students at the University of California in San Diego. More than 2,700 schools spanning 52 countries are using the MoonKAM cameras.

"What might seem like just a cool activity for these kids may very well have a profound impact on their futures," Ride said. "The students really are excited about MoonKAM, and that translates into an excitement about science and engineering."

To view the student-requested images, visit:

For more information about MoonKAM, visit:


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Mar 12

Twin Grail Spacecraft Begin Collecting Lunar Science Data

Source: NASA News

Artist concept of GRAIL mission.
Image credits: NASA/JPL.

NASA's Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft orbiting the moon officially have begun their science collection phase. During the next 84 days, scientists will obtain a high-resolution map of the lunar gravitational field to learn about the moon's internal structure and composition in unprecedented detail. The data also will provide a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed and evolved. (read more)

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Oct 11

Deadly Moons for Our Lady of the Wayside National School, Bluebell, Dublin 12 Sept 27th 2011

Moon artists at Our Lady of the Wayside National School

Deirdre Kelleghan

Bluebell,  what a lovely fresh word evoking joy, wonder and energy. These were the qualities I found in the children who took part in Deadly Moons at their school in west Dublin on Tuesday September 27th.   This group had multicultural backgrounds, Irish Travellers, Irish, Polish, African the Philippines and other communities were represented in their little faces.

The woman in the Moon ( adapted )  from a Traveller legend was one of the stories I told about the full Moon. I used Peter Riesett’s   black and white harvest Moon image to put over this story as his photograph  clearly illustrated the Woman in the Moon hidden in the lunar maria very well indeed.  Several children were captivated by this story which I found on The Barefoot Pavee website.   I like to tell tiny stories about various moons in the presentation as children listen and retain stories better than just plain facts.

Once again Saturn’s moon Tethys was a must do for some children, while the image of our Moon in false colour prompted many positive vocal gasps. Lennox was very keen to try to draw the harvest moon in black and white including the Woman in the Moon. Eddie age 9 was such a busy helpful  boy, he produced an energetic drawing of our moon in false colour including Tycho and its rays. Ben age 8 created a gorgeous subtly shaded moon in false colour and added an explosive Tycho crater ray system afterwards.  There was great variety in the drawings produced   by this group , Atlas by Aaron age 8 , Callisto by Saviour , First Quarter Moon by Alannah age 9 and a half, all wonderful drawings !!

The entire group were very engaged, there was a lot of energy in the room all going into the drawings and the learning.  As each moon was finished they were put on display until all the work was on the wall, looking great.

Our Lady of the Wayside National School is under the DEIS scheme and benefits in many ways because of it.  Creativity in the Classroom facilitator Liz McMahon  invited me to run my workshop for the children of Ms.Dalton's 3rd and 4th and Ms. McDermott's 3rd and 4th classes. The school also had an excellent audio visual set up, this is one of the many extra‘s this school has at its disposal because it is in a designated disadvantaged area.

Liz McMahon  is intending over the next few weeks to build on what the children have learnt and continue to create drawings and creative works inspired directly from their experiences at my workshop. Our Lady of the Wayside National School Bluebell Dublin

Moon cards provided by Jane Houston Jones JPL/NASA were given to each child. Educational outreach material which was also provided by JPL/NASA was given to each teacher for the classroom.

A few children who lived near the school were invited to talk to me after the workshop to see how it all went for them.  The interview is here, unedited just the way it unfolded, some quiet children, some very vocal children, all little gems.



Deadly Moons Drawing Workshop in Bluebell Dublin an informal chat with some of the children


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Sep 11

Solar Sketch September 1st - Astronomy Education Outreach Podcast - What's Up for September 2011 - GRAIL to the Moon

September 1st 2011 Solar Sketch East limb proms,Active Region 1283 , Fibrils show Magnetic field lines
Large filament. 10:50 UT
PST 40 / 8 mm TVP eyepiece - 50 X
Pastel , Conte, Pencil on black paper 

There were  several  proms on the solar limb that morning but these busy proms  on the eastern limb seemed to be the most interesting to me. Some of the magnetic field lines around AR 1283  stood out for several seconds in good detail so I sketched them in with pencil over the pastel. That's why they appear a little shiny as pencil does that  when used over pastel. Fibrils in the suns chromosphere  line up along magnetic field lines giving up  secret invisible information about their shape and extent of some of  the magnetic activity in the Active Regions.

Obviously I am re tuning and re focusing the telescope constantly  to capture all these features on the same plain , on a piece of paper. The sketch is CD size.




Science Chat talks to astronomer and artist Deirdre Kelleghan about her prize winning Deadly Moons project, and the book she's co-authored, Sketching The Moon  an Astronomical Artists Guide - Link below
Follow Deirdre on Twittr @skysketcher

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Sep 11

NASA launches mission to study Moon from crust to core

Source: NASA

NASA's twin lunar Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 9:08 a.m. EDT Saturday to study the moon in unprecedented detail.

GRAIL-A is scheduled to reach the moon on New Year's Eve 2011, while GRAIL-B will arrive New Year's Day 2012. The two solar-powered spacecraft will fly in tandem orbits around the moon to measure its gravity field. GRAIL will answer longstanding questions about the moon and give scientists a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.(read more)

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