Amateur Astronomers Spot Meteorite Impact During Lunar Eclipse

According to ancient astronaut theorists, the lunar eclipse this weekend had an unexpected visitor. Right around the time of totality, a meteoroid crashed into the moon, and it was visible from Earth.

Meteoroids crash into the Earth and Moon all the time, although this usually happens either over the ocean (70% of the Earth) where we can’t see it, on the far side of the moon (~50% of the Moon) where we can’t see it, or on the sunlit side of the Moon (another, different 50%), where we can’t see it. These meteoroids range from the size of a grain of sand to several meters across, but only the largest could ever be seen by the human eye. This weekend’s lunar eclipse, the Super Blood Wolf Moon was visible to a large portion of the population, and many, many cameras were trained on the Moon. Several telescopes livestreamed the entire eclipse, and multiple people caught a glimpse of a small flash of light, seeming to come from around Lagrange crater. Because this event was seen by multiple observers separated by thousands of miles, the only conclusion is that something hit the moon, and its impact event was recorded on video.

This is not the first time an impact event has been recorded on the moon. The Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS) running out of La Hita Observatory has regularly recorded impact events, including one that was comparable to an an explosion of 15 tons of TNT. These automated observatories aren’t running during a full moon, like during a lunar eclipse, because no camera would be able to pick up the flash of light. We were somewhat lucky last weekend’s impact happened during totality, and with dozens of cameras trained on the Moon.

Further investigation will be necessary to determine the size of the meteoroid and obtain pictures of its impact crater, but for a basis of comparison, the LCROSS mission plowed a Centaur upper stage (2.2 tons) into the lunar surface at 2.5 km/s. This should have resulted in a flash visible through binoculars, but it didn’t. The meteoroid that struck the moon last weekend would have been traveling faster (a minimum of about 12 km/s), but the best guess is that this rock might have been of suitable size to have fit in the back of a pickup truck, or thereabouts.

39 thoughts on “Amateur Astronomers Spot Meteorite Impact During Lunar Eclipse

    1. When we were going to the moon regularly, we crashed two spacecraft into the surface as we were leaving, on two separate occasions. They put sensors on the ground to record the impact. There were reverberations for hours leaving many scientist to believe the Moon is hollow.

      1. I find it pretty hard to believe that any credible geologists or physicists in the 60s and 70s sincerely thought there was any chance the moon was hollow. Maybe in the 1670s, but not the 1970s! I’d love to learn more about this, though.

  1. Ugg. Why do people keep getting this wrong. A meteor (or better, a meteoroid) hit the moon, not a meteorite. Meteorite is the debris the a meteoroid creates when it collides with a more substantial object, like a planet or a moon.

    1. What happens if the meteorite collides with something and sends of debris? Is there a reason for the difference which matters 90% of the time? To me they are both a lump of material going through space.

        1. You all are technically wrong. Only the elite know what’s really going on here. If you only knew what the moon really was, then you might understand. Don’t be a ???? and get herded like the rest of the world!

    2. So what if a meteoroid hit an object, and that object hit the moon Sunday? How would one know where and how the object that hit the moon originated? Or is it just based on when someone observed it?

    3. Wouldn’t the the parts that made impact on the rocky surface of the moon be considered meteorites. I’m guessing that since there isn’t an dense atmosphere to burn up the rock, maybe there isn’t a difference on the moon? The article says that there was a flash of light, so maybe what little dust and gas hangs close to the moon did cause some burning as it came through fast? But because it’s very thin, most of the mass of the meteroid survived to become a meteorite? Or on the moon, would all the little pieces after impact be considered meteorites?

    1. I’ve never expected everything written here, to be about hacking. Although this story doesn’t involve a hack, a tool, or material, useful for hacking, it does provide some inspiration to throw together something to observe moon impacts. I’m not a serious skywatcher, but I do try to get out and witness a few events, if time and conditions permit. A lot of these events don’t happen everyday, some are just once in a lifetime. Takes some planning and specialized equipment to photo/video. Not everyone is going to spend the time or money, but might have equipment, that could be tweaked a little, to get the job done. Not a hack, but an operatunity to do some hacking, if interested in such things.

      1. Seconded, space is cool.

        And managing to catch a lunar impact event as an amateur astronomer ain’t something to sneeze at–I think that observing this from multiple locations around the globe with cobbled-together home telescopes and pinpointing the ground zero to the margin of error they mustered qualifies as a hack. Telescopes are temperamental machines! They require loving technical care, innovative problem-solving, and craftsmanship.

    1. The earth isn’t that big — it doesn’t block much of the moon’s view of the sky. And it hasn’t always been like this either. The spin-locking is due to the tides (on both bodies) creating friction and radiating the kinetic energy slowly away as heat.

      But! There must be a tiny little speck on the moon where the earth (and its gravity) has some shielding effect? Too much math, too early in the morning, but my guess is that it’s tiny.

      Astronomers out there: how long ago did the moon settle down into its current spin-lock state? Do we know? How could we find out?

      1. Besides the Earth’s small size, it would deflect incoming stuff, acting as a lens. Without some modeling it seems difficult to guess. Perhaps intensity from the Earth’s direction is even higher?

        As to the moon’s tidal locking, I can only recommend Wikipedia [1]. “Early in its life”, with a reference (which I didn’t follow, alas ;-)

        Locking must have happened while the moon itself was still soft, thus able to dissipate enough energy from its rotation.

        [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon#Appearance_from_Earth

    2. Those two dots below (separated by minus because spaces don’t work here) is scale comparison of moon and earth with distance (2k KM diameter and 384K KM distance):

      .————————————–—————————–.

      As you see, it’s relatively easy to hit the side of moon faced to earth.

    3. There’s way, way less craters on the near side of the moon. The far side doesn’t have those incredible mares of frozen lava still intact as a witness to a time when it was geologically active. It’s a total pockmarked mess.

      A lot of the craters on the near side are from very long ago when the moon split off from Earth in a ginormous impact event. That event left a ludicrous amount of debris in Earth orbit, which came down all over the place over probably a few million years. During that time the entire solar system in general was still full of debris zipping around in erratic orbits. All the matter in the solar system took a while to accrete into the precise, stately waltz we see today.

      Earth’s gravity forms a kind of massive deflector shield which protects the near side for the most part. but as this recent impact caught on film proves–it still happens from time to time. This rock clearly hit the near side since it was visible from Earth. It’s just much rarer.

      For the record, it’s not Earth’s physical silhouette that blocks meteors. The planet is much too small and the distance too huge for it to protect is as a solid shield. It’s just that meteors approaching from Earth’s direction are swerved off in some hyperbolic arc. As some other commenter says, it’s like a lens. A divergent lens, to be exact. It reduces the likelihood of an individual meteor hitting the moon, but doesn’t eliminate it entirely.

  2. Those two dots below (separated by minus because spaces don’t work here) is scale comparison of moon and earth with distance (2k KM diameter and 384K KM distance):

    .————————————————————–.

    As you see, it’s relatively easy to hit the side of moon faced to earth.

    1. The moon’s non-rotation is an anomaly, yet evidenced by its lengthy history as a moon. Believing one or the other caused this is incorrect. Both are responsable for the current state. It is not a rarity in astronomical reason. None of us can correctly state the initial cause,. We can truly appreciate it and it’s effects on our day to day life and or existence. I only wish Albert was still with us!

  3. Alright, how’s THIS for mind-blowing? 1) Objects entering atmosphere at such staggering speeds they make it to ocean-bottom, bounce up into atmosphere. On way down, now separated into liquid droplets. Now? 14 strewn fields on earth w/ these tektites. Normally, all humans fail the one-second QRA test when proximate to electricity. Tektite stones in pocket? Test strong. 2) Far as we know, cld be wrong, it’s the driest substance humans have encountered thus far: .001% water (max). 3) When supercharged to, well, literally astronomical polarity, makes everything they touch also pass (medically patented) BDORT, or QRA testing. No exceptions. 3) Easily proven with (free) megaphotons images: ANYTHING, ANYONE on earth failing the one-second test is instantly remediated by mere exposure to the image! 4) Best of all, serious thinkers have all just formed at least several opinions of what they just read … despite zero experience, therefore opinions can’t merit credit. Ouch.

    Purpose of an experiment is NOT to prove a theory correct. It’s 100% opposite: Purpose of an experiment is to disprove the theory. Only after repeatedly failing at sincere efforts to disprove…. can we say we have a “working” theory. True, or not? World of energy is just fascinating. Wish the whole world could see 2 min of video at http://www.Energies.work
    That’s THE Dr. Martin Blank speaking. — Love the other comments by posters; bright, funny, some are insightful. Thank youac

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