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MIDAS cameras spot pair of lunar flashes caused by meteoroid impacts

By Brooks Hays
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MIDAS cameras spot pair of lunar flashes caused by meteoroid impacts
The collision between a walnut-sized space rocks and the lunar surface produced a brilliant flash captured by CCD cameras. Photo by ESA/MIDAS

July 30 (UPI) -- New images from the European Space Agency showcased a pair of recent lunar flashes.

Photographs of the flashes were captured using CCD cameras at a trio of observatories in Spain, which make up the MIDAS project. CCD stands for "charge coupled device."

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Lunar flashes occur when space rocks collide with parts of the moon facing away from the sun. Because these parts of the moon aren't reflecting the sun's light, the impact-induced sparks appear especially bright.

The two flashes, separated by less than 24 hours, occurred on different parts of the darkened moon. The latest analysis suggests they were caused by the impact of two walnut-sized meteoroids, both likely part of the Alpha Capricornids meteor shower.

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Earth and its moon are currently passing through the trail of dusty debris left behind by the comet 169P/NEAT. When small fragments collide with Earth's atmosphere, they can produce visible streaks of light -- shooting stars. The moon's atmosphere is nonexistent, so the tiny fragments collide directly with the lunar surface.

The MIDAS project's CCD cameras continue to help astronomers document these collisions.

"By studying meteoroids on the moon we can determine how many rocks impact it and how often, and from this we can infer the chance of impacts on Earth," Jose Maria Madiedo from MIDAS said in a news release.

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Last week, the moon was darker than usual, as it passed through Earth's shadow. Friday's lunar eclipse marked the longest total lunar eclipse in decades.

Images captured by ESA revealed the moon in brilliant red tint, as sunlight refracted by Earth's atmosphere reflected off the shaded lunar surface.

RELATED Earth's water present before impact formed moon, study finds

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