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A rogue 3-ton piece rocket debris collides with the moon

بقايا صاروخ تزن 3 أطنان تصطدم بالقمر

A rogue rocket stage ended its seven-year space odyssey on (March 4), finally slamming into the moon.

The event took place at 7:25 a.m. EST (1225 GMT) on the lunar far side, experts say, meaning it was out of view of ground-based telescopes. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was likely not in position to get a look at the crash, but the agency has pledged to seek out the resulting crater — a process that could take weeks or months.

That crater, Scientific American suggests, is somewhat near the naturally formed 354-mile-wide (570 kilometers) Hertzsprung Crater.

Today’s collision marked the first known unintentional lunar collision involving a piece of space hardware, not counting the probes that have crashed while trying to land on the moon. (NASA steered the third stages of Saturn V moon rockets into the lunar surface during multiple Apollo missions, but those crashes were intentional.)   

Where exactly the errant rocket stage came from is a matter of some debate. Initial analyses pointed to a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, though later looks identified a Chinese launcher as the origin. China has disputed this conclusion, however, illustrating how hard it is to track small objects far from Earth.

The first known prediction of today’s moon impact came from astronomer Bill Gray, who runs the Pluto Project program that tracks faraway space objects. Initial calculations by Gray and others suggested that the impactor was the upper stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite in February 2015.

However, Gray later corrected his analysis after discussion with other astronomers, including Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astronomer who commonly tracks satellites and space debris. Gray’s work and several other independent observations now suggest that the object was in fact part of the Long March 3C rocket that launched China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission mission in 2014.

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واشنطن: اصطدمت بقايا صاروخ كان يطفو في الفضاءِ بالقمر، على ما رجح خبراء، لكنَّ الحدث لم يُرصَد بشكل مباشر، وينبغي الانتظار للحصول على صور تؤكِّده. وحصل الاصطدام عند الساعة 12.25 بتوقيت غرينتش بالجانب المظلم من القمر، وَفق ما أشار عالم الفلك بيل غراي، وهو أوَّل من كشف عن الاصطدام المرتقب قبل أسابيع. وقال: إنَّ الجسم الأسطواني الذي بلغت سرعته تسعة آلاف كيلومتر في الساعة «من المتوقَّع أن يكون تسبب بحفرة قطرها بين عشرة وعشرين مترًا».

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