Keith's note: Like everyone else, I was watching NASA TV this morning as LCORSS (the Centaur upper stage and Shepherding Satellite) headed in for an impact on the Moon's south pole. The closing footage reminded me of watching Ranger impacts on the Moon broadcast live on TV as a young boy. Leading up to the impact, NASA produced all sorts of animations showing the impact - a bright plume of glowing debris. There is some precedent for this the Shoemaker-Levy impacts on Jupiter as seen by Hubble and the Deep Impact comet collision as well as other recent moon probe impacts.
As I watched the video this morning I was waiting for the flash - as were many other watching TV or peering trough telescopes. Then the time for Centaur impact passed. Nothing. No flash. Did NASA overhype the scale of what might be seen? Or was this a realistic expectation of what might have occurred? So far we hear that an IR signature was obtained and that a dimmer flash might be better for the prospect of water detection. Stay tuned. Watch the videos (below) - actual, and pre-mission - and decide for yourself. There is a NASA press conference at 10 am EDT and I will be on CNN.com at 1:05 pm EDT to discuss this.
"But the big live public splash people anticipated didn't quite happen. Screens got fuzz and no immediate pictures of the crash or the six-mile plume of lunar dust that the mission was all about. The public, which followed the crashes on the Internet and at observatories, seemed puzzled."
Keith's update: according to the press conference multiple spacecraft such as IKONOS, GEOEYE-1, and Hubble were looking at the impact site as were a number of Earth-based telescopes. Data is now arriving from this suite of instruments. The impact crater has been seen and spectra received. No word yet as to if water was detected - yet.
LCROSS Lunar Impact - Actual Footage
LCROSS Lunar Impact - Pre-mission Animation