October 20, 2017

02.04.11: Stalking an Impact.

Click image to see animation…(Credit: Stefano Sposetti/Marco Iten/Geological Lunar Researches Group).

Take a look at the image above. It may not be one of the most colorful we’ve ever run, but it shows something dramatic; a possible impact on the limb of the Moon. On February 11 of this year, Stefano Sposetti and Marco Iten of Gnosca Observatory Switzerland used a Borg 125 ED refractor and a high speed video camera along with a similar setup attached to a Celestron 11 at a separate location to record the flash on the nighttime side of the then just past 1st Quarter Moon. The results were reported in a recent issue of Selenology Today. The flash was caught across several frames, and produced a light plot just like one would expect from an impact. This would rule out random pixel noise or perhaps a high energy particle hit on the detector, something frequently seen on spacecraft cameras. The exact time of the flash was 20:36:58.36 UTC, and the location was very near the craters Dalton, Vasco de Gama B and Einstein A.

This is a recording feat that scarcely a decade ago wouldn’t have been thought possible, especially with off-the-shelf hardware. Yes, lots of things do strike the Moon, but the face of the Moon is ancient, and the historical span of our observations is very short. Remember that the LCROSS impactor registered nary a blip on the detectors of even the biggest scopes back in 2009: it’s possible that this impactor was a fair size. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is in orbit and snapping pictures daily; a good step now would be for researchers to compare follow-up images of the region to see if something is amiss. Congrats to the Geological Lunar Researches Group on their catch; it shows that it’s always still worth watching the face of our Moon!    

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