Watch A Rare Moment of a Meteorite Smashing The Moon (Video)

18th Mar 2023
Watch A Rare Moment of a Meteorite Smashing The Moon (Video)

A Japanese astronomer captured a stunning sight, the moment a meteorite impacted the Moon’s surface, causing a brief flash on the nightside of our celestial neighbour.

Meteorites’ impacts on the moon are not uncommon. In fact, the Moon’s surface is pocked with craters from such effects. However, witnessing the moment of impact is rare as it requires a combination of timing, luck, and the right equipment.

Daichi Fuji, the Hiratsuka City Museum curator, recorded the event using cameras set to monitor the Moon. The flash appeared on February 23 at 20:14:30.8 Japan Standard Time (7:14 a.m. EST, or 1114 GMT). According to Fuji’s estimates, the meteorite struck near Ideler L crater, slightly northwest of Pitiscus crater.

Meteors travel at an average speed of 48,280 kph. Impacts at such high speed generate intense heat and create craters while giving out a brilliant flash of visible light. According to Fuji, such craters could be a dozen meters in diameter and can be photographed by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or India’s Chandrayaan 2 lunar probe.

Are Meteorites Smashing the Moon Every Day and How Big Are They?

First, it’s important to understand that objects from space constantly bombard the moon’s space. These can be anything from tiny micrometeoroids to larger asteroids and comets.

The moon is vulnerable to rocks or even specks that fly around in space, unlike Earth, which has a protective atmosphere in which meteoroids often disintegrate.

Cooke, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Officer, studies the space environment around the Earth to understand the flux of meteoroids. He estimates that 11 to 1,100 tons (the mass of about 5.5 cars) of dust collide with the Moon daily. He further claims that about 100 ping-pong-ball-sized meteoroids are hitting the Moon daily. Each impacts the surface with a force of 3.2kg of dynamite.

Larger meteoroids slamming into the moon are less frequent, but they hit with the force of a kiloton once every four years.

Why Do We Need Lunar Impact Monitoring?

As we prepare to send astronauts to space as part of the Artemis mission, we must understand the solar system‘s history, the geology of other planets and the moon, and the risks of meteorites smashing the Moon in future space endeavours.

Lunar impact monitoring enables the measurement of meteoroids in the 10s of grams to kilograms size ranges which are challenging to measure with other techniques. Precise observations help establish the rate of large meteoroids impacting the Moon across various sizes to help evaluate the threat to spacecraft.

By monitoring the Moon for impacts, we can define the meteoroid environment and identify the risks meteors pose to future lunar exploration. The data collected from these observations will help engineers design lunar spacecraft, habitats, vehicles, and extra-vehicular activity suits to protect human explorers from the stresses of the lunar environment.

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