Flying observatory that made new discovery is able to ‘pick up phenomenon impossible to see with visible light’, space agency notes
Nasa will hold a major event to announce an “exciting new discovery” about the Moon, it has said.
The space agency did not reveal details about the discovery but suggested that it “contributes to Nasa’s efforts to learn about the Moon in support of deep space exploration”.
It also said that the discovery had come from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or Sofia.
Sofia is a modified Boeing 747 that flies in the high the atmosphere, allowing a built-in, 9-foot telescope to get a view of our solar system and the broader universe.
Because it goes above 99 per cent of the water vapour in the atmosphere, which normally obscures our view of space, the flying observatory is able to “pick up phenomenon impossible to see with visible light”, Nasa noted in its announcement.
Nasa’s notice of the event made heavy reference to the Artemis programme, which hopes to send the first woman and next man to the Moon in 2024, with the hope of using it as a base to launch missions to Mars from the 2030s. They will be the first people to set foot on the Moon since 1972.
The briefing will also be attended by Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at Nasa’s Headquarters, further suggesting that the discovery is at least applicable to the space agency’s plans to travel to – and live on – the Moon.
As well as Dr Bleacher, the event will be attended by Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters; Casey Honniball, postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center; and Naseem Rangwala, project scientist for the SOFIA mission.
The event will take place at noon eastern time, or 5pm in the UK, on Monday, 26 October, Nasa said.
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin salutes the US flag on the moon’s surface in a picture taken by Neil Armstrong after both climbed down the ladder of the lunar module “Eagle” on 21 July, 1969 to become the first men in history to set foot on the moon’s surface
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World news – GB – Nasa to make major announcement about the moon