February 26, 2014

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Forming a New Crater

video from José María Madiedo

In 1942, Walter Haas, the founder of amateur planetary observing in the USA, published a paper called, Does Anything Ever Happen on the Moon? Haas was referring mostly to what became known as transient lunar phenomena; hazes, obscurations, new features and flashes on the Moon. None of those TLPs has been documented to have produced a real change on the Moon, except for flashes. Since the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been circling the Moon a number of new impact craters have been discovered that are less than 3 years old. I believe that one had also been observed from Earth as a flash of light. Now, José María Madiedo, a professor from the University of Huelva in Spain, has succeeded in capturing the brightest lunar flash ever documented, and he produced the video above showing the footage and offering an explanation and a high quality animation. This was not a lucky random catch of a flash, for Prof. Madiedo had set up a network on robotic telescopes across southern Spain for this and other astronomical work. A paper just published (and freely downloadable) in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society states that the projectile was 400 kg in mass and travelled at 61,000 km/hr. The crater created is estimated to be 50 m in diameter, big enough to be well seen when LRO images the area. Science News has stills from the flash and 8 seconds of brightness decay. Congratulations to Prof. Madiedo and his team for demonstrating that things still do happen on the Moon.

Chuck Wood

Technical Details
Twin Celestron 11" telescopes at two locations were used to image the lunar flash.

Related Links
Prof. Madiedo's meteor webpage
A short video of just the impact flash

Yesterday's LPOD: What is This?

Tomorrow's LPOD: A Lunar Fairy Tale


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