SCUBA-2 observes…… the Moon

The moon in the submillimetre

The last weekend of March was a cloudy and wet(†) night and all the commissioning tests that could be done with the dome closed had been. So with nothing to do, and the clouds providing a (not totally) opaque neutral density filter through which to observe, SCUBA-2’s sensitive detectors were aimed at the Moon.

The result is shown in the image above. Although it appears as though the Moon is almost fully illuminated, that’s not so. In the optical we see the light from the Sun scattered off the lunar surface towards us. In the submillimetre, we see the thermal emission that the Moon radiates as it cools. This emission originates from approximately 1 mm below the Moon’s surface, so in principle could inform us about the Moon surface.

A close up of the craters on the Moon seen with SCUBA-2

Note: SCUBA-2’s predecessor, SCUBA, also observed the Moon through similarly cloudy conditions. The results of that map can be seen here.

† For submillimetre astronomers, “wet” doesn’t mean that it was raining, just that there was lots of water vapour in the atmosphere. Water absorbs submillimetre radiation so well (which is why microwave ovens are so effective), that usually anything more than 4-5mm of water vapour in the column of atmosphere above the telescope, closes the submillimetre window from view.

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3 Responses to SCUBA-2 observes…… the Moon

  1. Pingback: Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-04-10 « canspice.org

  2. JaneG says:

    congrats!! … that’s a whole lot nicer than we managed back in 2000 🙂 and it took a lot of mosaicing of oddly oriented strips with SCUBA-1

  3. Pingback: Postcards from the centre of our Galaxy « SCUBA-2 News Blog

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