The European Space Agency’s first mission to the moon ended with a deliberate bang on Sept. 3. The planned crash of the SMART-1 spacecraft, which had photographed the moon and mapped its mineral and elemental composition from lunar orbit since November 2004, created a flash caught by dozens of telescopes on Earth.
A newly installed infrared camera on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, located on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, pinpointed the crash and for at least 75 seconds, observed the expansion of the dust cloud generated by the high-speed impact.
This telescope and other ground-based instruments supplied astronomers with the first images from Earth of a lunar impact and its aftermath. Analysis of the dust cloud and its expansion, combined with information on the speed of the craft, may provide new information about the material generated in a lunar crash.