Saturday science subject: Moon crash-landing

The European Space Agency's SMART-1 spacecraft will crash-land on the moon either later today or early tomorrow morning, depending on the time zone and when the crash occurs. SMART-1 (or Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology #1) is a lunar orbiter that has served as the ESA's test bed for a new type of ion thruster. After almost three years, the orbiter has finally run out of fuel, and the ESA has set it on a collision course with the lunar surface in order to learn more about the moon's composition and its impact history. SMART-1 will smash into the moon at a cool 2 km/s, or 4,474 MPH, creating a crater up to 33 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep. If the dust cloud kicked off by the impact is big enough, the crash could be visible from Earth with binoculars or a small telescope.

The crash-landing is set to occur on September 3 at 5:42 AM UTC (1:42 AM EST) but there's a chance SMART-1 could collide with a hill a few hours earlier on September 3 at 00:38 AM UTC (September 2, 8:38 PM EST.) The ESA's website has a page with instructions on how to watch for the crash right here.

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