Meteorite strikes moon during full lunar eclipse

Pat Wise
January 25, 2019

Madiedo and his research colleagues had been hoping for years to observe a meteorite impact during a lunar eclipse, so during this latest eclipse the team had double the number of telescopes (8, up from 4) pointed at different areas of the moon.

For the first time, astronomers and eclipse-watchers around the globe caught sight of a piece of space debris - most likely a meteoroid - slamming into the surface of the Moon as it passed through the shadow of Earth. Astronomers in Huelva began monitoring lunar impact flashes in 1997, but this marked the first time such an event was captured on camera during a lunar eclipse. "I was really exhausted when the eclipse was over".

The impact was also confirmed by the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS), which uses telescopes equipped with high-sensitivity video cameras to continuously record footage. So, we usually monitor the Moon about five days after the New Moon, and around five days before the New Moon.

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The roughly 37.9 million-square-kilometer surface of the moon is hit by an estimated 2,800kg of meteor material (rock and ice) each day. The so-called super blood wolf moon painted the satellite in brilliant shades of orange and red for just over 5 hours.

In a description of the eclipse written on the Virtual Telescope website before the event, Masi said the aim was to share with viewers "the stunning beauty of such a unique event". After one Reddit user asked what the flash might have been, astronomers across social media began sifting through video feeds of the eclipse, suspecting a meteor impact. "I did not want to miss any potential impact event", he explained in an email.

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