Archive | January 2012

Time for a Moon Base?

Forum moderator Geoff linked to a short article about Russia’s Space Agency considering reviving plans to build a lunar base. In the late 1950s the US Army studied the feasibility of constructing a lunar military outpost. Under the name “Project Horizon” the aims were:

“to develop and protect potential United States interests on the moon; to develop techniques in moon-based surveillance of the earth and space, in communications relay, and in operations on the surface of the moon; to serve as a base for exploration of the moon, for further exploration into space and for military operations on the moon if required; and to support scientific investigations on the moon.”
Of the several sites proposed this was one of them in Sinus Aestuum south of the Imbrium Basin.

In this wide view an arrow marks the proposed site.

In terms of lunar exploration it would have made a great site with opportunities to sample the rays of Copernicus Crater and explore Eratosthenes Crater and the pyroclastic deposits of Rima Bode yielding valuable dating and geologic information. More details can be found on the the LROC News system  site where these pictures are taken from and which featured the proposed lunar base last year. Thanks to forum regular kodemunkey for providing that link.

The “Project Horizon” document is lengthy and makes fascinating reading. It’s easy to forget that it was written half a century ago and 2 years before Yuri Gagarin made his historic spaceflight. But the plan never progressed beyond this feasibility study and lunar bases have remained the stuff of science fiction. Will this new attempt to revive the idea meet the same fate?

Here’s the NAC of the Sinus Aestuum region: M129350565L


New Moon Zoo Scientist Position Available

Moon Zoo Science Position Advertised

Dear all

Since it’s launch, Moon Zoo has been an enormous success, with 76,960 people contributing more than 2,858,389 classifications of craters (as of last night!). What we haven’t done, yet, is turn those clicks into results which we can share with the rest of the scientific community. As I noted on my blog from the recent American Astronomical Society conference, that’s the real test of any citizen science project.

An early look at the data looks extremely promising, and I’m pleased to say we’ve just taken two major steps towards that goal. Firstly, thanks to the sterling efforts of Ian Crawford at UCL we’ve obtained funding from The Leverhulme Trust for a three-year postdoctoral position working exclusively on Moon Zoo science. This sort of effort is exactly what we need, and we’ve already got a job ad. out looking for the right person. Having someone working on Moon Zoo full time will also help us investigate some of the weird and wonderful terrains and images uncovered by the Moon Zoo forum.

Secondly, the first paper from Moon Zoo’s sister site, the Milky Way Project, is nearly accepted. As the Milky Way Project uses a modified version of the Moon Zoo interface, the techniques we used there to combine classifications should be easily adapted to the larger Moon Zoo dataset. For example, we have to account for inevitable problems caused by adopting a particular tool – for example, the tendency of classifiers to repeatedly mark craters at the smallest allowed size – but we can do this through careful database manipulation.

We’re tentatively targeting having early results to share by April, and we’ll keep you informed by the blog.


P.S. Pamela Gay and Stuart Robbins, who had been working with us on Moon Zoo have decided to launch their own, competing, project. Pamela in particular has put a lot of time into the Zooniverse over the last few years, and we’re grateful for her help. Competition in science is usually a good thing, and I hope we’ll see papers from both groups before too long.

Light and Dark

We are used to seeing different kinds of craters on the Moon Zoo forum. In particular we collect dark haloed craters and fresh white craters. Impacts can excavate rocks and material beneath the lunar regolith and this “fresher” material forming the ejecta blanket sometimes looks a very different colour to the rest of the surrounding area due to its higher or lower albedo.

Forum member kodemunkey recently found a couple of impacts which at first glance were hard to classify – you could say they were impacts of two halves. Are they fresh whites or dark haloed? Or is it just a trick of light and shadow? I think that’s exactly what we are seeing in the first crater. The combination of a high Sun, uneven terrain and a deep impact has produced an image of a crater half in shadow. The second crater is slightly more difficult to call. Both make striking images. Why not have a closer look and see what you think.

They are located near to lat: 5.12  Lon: 351.6 in the Schroter / Sinus Medii region.
Here’s the NAC image for a close up view.

Neighbouring regions show more of the two-toned Moonscape: