Astronomy topic: Why are days so long on the Moon? 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — China’s lunar probes, Chang’E and YuTu (Jade Rabbit), are preparing for Lunar day 3 of their mission, but they’ve been on the Moon since Dec. 15. Are they lazy, or what? Considering a day on the Moon is almost two Earth weeks long, I’d say not. Time for a quick astronomy lesson. You know, I hope, that the Moon takes about 28 days to go around the Earth. This is where we get the English word “month” from (as in, “moonth,” the way they said it long ago). Like the Earth, the Moon also rotates around its axis, but much more slowly. Earth takes about 24 hours for one complete spin, the Moon, about 28 Earth days from sunrise to sunrise. Chang’E and YuTu use solar panels for power during the long lunar day. But during the lunar night, they hunker down, relying on small radioactive “batteries” to keep critical electronics warm and functioning. Since there is only one lunar day each Earth month, the two probes have only been on the Moon for three lunar days. Each work shift is about 14 Earth days long, and they “sleep” for 14 days between shifts. It is no ...

China’s Jade Rabbit moon rover oversleeps, phones home 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — YuTu was not feeling well when it turned in for the long lunar night two weeks ago, so maybe we can excuse it for sleeping an extra day. After all, its Earth-bound creators were afraid it wouldn’t wake up at all. When China’s YuTu (Jade Rabbit) hunkered down for the long lunar night, it was supposed to pull in its camera boom and fold its solar panels over itself to keep itself warm. Something malfunctioned, though, and Chinese space scientists were afraid YuTu would freeze to death waiting for the sunrise. It missed a scheduled wake-up call on Monday, and Chinese media reported the six-wheeled rover was out of commission just two months into its mission. YuTu and its companion, the lander Chang’E, arrived on Dec. 14, the first probes to make a soft landing on the Moon since the 1970s. But a day later, listeners on Earth heard its radio signal, indicating the rover had survived. Its operators are now trying to determine what happened and whether YuTu is well enough to continue its surveying mission. Details are at Universe Today. YuTu is named after the mythological rabbit who lives on the Moon, where he makes ...

Chinese lunar rover Jade Rabbit may not wake up

JISHOU, HUNAN — YuTu (玉兔), China’s first lunar rover, is experiencing some mechanical problems as it enters its second night time period on the Moon, worrying earthbound observers. Night comes to the Moon every two weeks, and temperatures drop below -180°C (-290°F). YuTu is supposed to pull in its antenna and camera, fold up its solar panels and hunker down, keeping itself warm with its radioisotope power source. Apparently, that process didn’t quite happen, and Chinese space scientists are concerned the little rabbit may not wake up again. They are reportedly scrambling for some way to remotely repair the malfunction. The lunar lander, Chang’E 3, has also gone into hibernation, but it seems to be OK. The robotic duo landed last month and quickly sent back images of the landing site in Sinus Iridum, to the delight of the Chinese and space fans worldwide. YuTu, which is named after the mythical rabbit who lives on the Moon with the goddess Chang’E, has traveled 100 meters (about 100 yards) so far. Emily Lakdawalla has a more detailed report at the Planetary Society website. Universe Today has several high-res photos, as well. This one was Chang’E’s Christmas gift to Earth.
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