NASA wants you to get excited about the moon … or more specifically, about a mysterious new science result the agency plans to unveil via a news conference on Monday, October 26, 2020, at 16:00 UTC (12 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). Tune in below:
NASA Live: https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive
NASA TV on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/NASAtelevision
NASA’s app: https://apps.apple.com/app/nasa-app/id334325516
@NASA Twitter: https://twitter.com/nasa
More details are expected to be announced during the news conference. A NASA statement promoting the event promises “an exciting new discovery about the moon” and references the agency’s ambitious Artemis program, which aims to land astronauts at the moon’s south pole in the year 2024.
What could it be? It’s possible the announcement relates to water ice around the moon’s south pole, considered a possible future resource for astronauts on the moon. Scientists have also predicted that – beneath the surfaces of Mars, Venus and our own moon – there are majestic volcanic caves, or lava tubes, formed by flowing magma and covered in tiny crystals. These lunar caves could provide shelter for future lunar explorers, and NASA has been testing an exploratory cave rover toward that end.
The announcement also relates to an airborne observatory, called the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, aka SOFIA. The observatory rides aboard a German-American aircraft that made its first flight in 2007. The telescope itself saw first light in 2010.
SOFIA is an infrared telescope packed aboard a modified 747 jet plane that carries its instruments up above most of Earth’s atmosphere, which offers some unique advantages. Earth’s atmosphere is both turbulent and turbid. For example, only radio and visible light pass easily through the different atmospheric layers, meaning that other wavelengths of light, such as infrared, are not easily captured using ground-based cameras. Infrared light, in particular, is absorbed at many wavelengths by water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere, so most infrared telescopes are at high elevations in dry places, above as much of the atmosphere as possible. SOFIA’s instruments focus on infrared light, studying objects in our own solar system and beyond.