A Fast-Moving Meteorite Slammed into the Moon during Total Eclipse

A Fast-Moving Meteorite Slammed into the Moon during Total Eclipse

A Fast-Moving Meteorite Slammed into the Moon during Total Eclipse
Image Credits: Mirror

Astronomers observed a meteorite impact on the Moon for the first time during a total eclipse.

A total eclipse, also known as the Super Blood Wolf Moon, occurs when the shadow of the Earth completely blocks the sun’s light from reaching the Moon. The blood-red color of the moon, in case of a total eclipse, is caused by the refraction of scattered sunlight through the Earth’s atmosphere. It is the most widely observed event among all lunar eclipses and has always attracted a lot of attention from humans. These incredible events are regularly observed by astronomers as well as the general public.

Bright Flash during the Total Eclipse

The most recent total eclipse was seen on 21st January 2019. People from all parts of the world were able to see the red moon but the residents of North America, South America, and Western Europe had the best possible view. What made this event even more popular was the sighting of a flash (meteorite hit) on the lunar surface, just after the beginning of the total eclipse. Several observers from different regions of the globe confirmed that the flash was so bright that it could be observed with the naked eye.

Dr. Jose L. Ortiz from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia and Jose Maria Madiedo, a Professor at the University of Huelva, recently published a study in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. This new paper suggests that the meteorite which collided with the moon was traveling at a speed of 61,000 km/h and left a massive crater on the lunar surface. Both of these Spanish astronomers used the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS) to observe the flash, which lasted merely for 0.28 seconds. Madiedo was delighted on recording this impact as this feat has been achieved for the first time ever. He said,

“Something inside of me told me that this time would be the time.”

MIDAS Telescopes

MIDAS is basically a network of 8 telescopes that are positioned in the south of Spain to keep an eye on the lunar surface. The ability of these telescopes to observe the impact at different wavelengths improved the overall efficiency of the data. The results of the study reveal that the space rock was about 30-60 centimeters wide, had a mass of around 45 kilograms, and was traveling at 61,000 kilometers per hour. Consequently, the impact site, which is near the crater Lagrange H, had to bear impact energy as equivalent to 1.5 tons of TNT. According to the observing astronomers, such an impact can create a crater of up to 15 meters across.

Lack of Atmosphere on the Moon

Given the fact that there is no atmosphere on the Moon, even the smallest of the rocks can manage to reach the lunar surface. The extraordinary speeds of these rocks, at the point of impact, lead to their instantaneous vaporization. The resulting plume of debris produces the glow, which we see as short flashes. In case of this impact, the ejected debris may have reached a peak temperature of 5400o C, which is nearly the same as the surface of the sun. Madiedo referred to the significance of this observation by saying,

“It would be impossible to reproduce these high-speed collisions in a lab on Earth. Observing flashes is a great way to test our ideas on exactly what happens when a meteorite collides with the Moon.”

This finding becomes even more important because there are plans being made to send astronauts back to the Moon in the coming decade or so. Continuous monitoring of meteorite strikes on the natural satellite of our planet will help us to understand the risks that the moon has to offer. You can have a look at the findings of the MIDAS satellites in the following video:

You can know more about the fear of the Blood Moon HERE

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