Chasing Chandrayaan and the super blue moon

On Aug. 30, when Western Australia experienced a “super blue moon,” the peak of a calendar blue moon and supermoon, the European Space Agency’s New Norcia deep space antenna tuned in. And that interest was twofold: the rare lunar event and the Chandrayaan-3 mission by ISRO, which achieved a soft landing on the lunar surface earlier in August. Credit: European Space Agency, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

On August 30, a rare “super blue moon” combined with the interactions of the European Space Agency’s New Norcia antenna with ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 Lander created a unique celestial and technological spectacle for observers in Western Australia.

As the sun set in Western Australia on August 30, the moon rose from the horizon in a particularly striking way.

This “super blue moon” was a rare combination of a calendar blue moon — the second full moon in one calendar month — and a super moon — a full moon that occurs when the moon is at its closest point to Earth in its orbit.

Like many interested in this rare phenomenon, the European Space Agency’s New Norcia Deep Space Antenna turned its attention to Earth’s natural satellite as it appeared. But it wasn’t just the Moon that ESA was interested in.


On August 23, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully landed the Chandrayaan-3 lander on the lunar surface. Credit: isro

Mission India Chandrayaan-3

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched Chandrayaan-3 on July 14 with a mission that aims, among other things, to achieve India’s first soft landing on another celestial body.

On August 23, the Chandrayaan-3 lander successfully landed on the moon, achieving this goal and making India the fourth country to achieve such a landing.

The European Space Agency provides ground station support for the mission: using its antennas around the globe to communicate with the spacecraft, transmit commands to it that control it in flight and on the surface, and receive critical information about the spacecraft’s health and data. of its scientific tools.

Once in a blue moon

One of the stations supporting Chandrayaan-3 is the European Space Agency’s New Norcia station, located about 140 kilometers (90 miles) north of Perth, Western Australia. On August 30, a number of fortunate coincidences combined to provide a rare view of this support in action.

The super blue moon was brightest for observers in Western Australia after local sunset on August 30. At this time, around 17:30 WAST (11:30 CEST), the New Norcia antenna began its most recent operation. Data exchange session with the Chandrayaan-3 lander on the surface.

The unusual brightness and position of the moon in the sky align perfectly to make it visible in the live webcam pointed at the New Norcia antenna throughout the roughly three-and-a-half-hour contact window.

A super blue moon is rare, a moon landing is rare, European Space Agency ground stations supporting a lunar mission are rare, and it is very rare to see the moon in the New Norcia webcam for an extended period of time.

But together, they allowed us to capture the European Space Agency’s antenna chasing the giant blue moon and the Chandrayaan-3 lander across the Australian sky.

What awaits us at Chandrayaan-3

At the time the image was taken, Chandrayaan-3’s surface processes were about midway through. On September 3, the vehicle was put to sleep. The planned activities ended with the end of the lunar daylight. At this point, the solar panels on the lander and rover can no longer generate power.

For them to survive until the next lunar day would only happen once in a blue moon.

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