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Snapshot: NASA Fires Twin Lasers at the Moon

Hundreds of moon lovers flocked to skywatching weekendskywatching events to gaze at Earth's nearest neighbor, but only at onegathering did visitors get a chance to see NASA fire lasers at the moon.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.,opened the doors of its Laser Ranging Facility to the public Saturday (Sept.18) in a rare night of tours to show visitors how it tracks the LunarReconnaissance Orbiter around the moon. The event was one of nearly 400gatherings around the world making up InternationalObserve the Moon Night aimed at spurring public interest in the moon.

This photo was taken by photographer Wade Sisler atthe Goddard Space Flight Center.

At the Laser Ranging Facility, engineers fire a laser 28times per second across nearly 250,000 miles at the minivan-sized LunarReconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft moving at nearly 3,600 miles per houras it orbits the moon.

By knowing the precise location of the LunarReconnaissance Orbiter, scientists are able to ensure the accuracy of the moonmaps the probe generates. The spacecraft recently completed its first year atthe moon and, last week, finished its initial exploration mission to supportfuture NASAflights to the moon. The probe is now switching to a pure science mission tohelp researchers to better understand the moon and its history.

This story was updated to reflect that photographer Wade Sisler took this photo.

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