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Holy Crap! The Moon Was Struck By A Meteorite During The ‘Super Wolf Blood Moon’ Eclipse

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A close-up of the impact flash.

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Such is the philosophy of Jose Maria Madiedo, an astronomer at the University of Huelva in Spain, who, for over 10 years, has tried to capture a meteorite hitting the Moon during a lunar eclipse.

Last Monday, during the so-called “Super Blood Wolf Blood Moon,” it finally happened.

Monday’s much anticipated Super Blood Wolf Moon eclipse, though badly named, did not disappoint.

Millions of people gazed into the night sky or onto video feeds to see a stunning coppery-red hue envelop our planet’s natural satellite.

As the January 21 eclipse unfolded, however, some observers noticed a tiny flash while watching the online broadcasts, said in a report.

Some suspected the flash was caused by a meteorite strike—and it turns out they were right. Jose Madiedo confirmed these suspicions, tweeting that a lunar impact occurred at 5:41am Spanish Peninsular Time.

A photograph released by Madiedo clearly showed a yellowish-white dot appearing in the darkened top left quadrant of the Moon during the totality phase of the eclipse.

 




Astronomers have filmed impact flashes on the Moon before, but this marks the first time a lunar impact was captured during a lunar eclipse—an achievement more than 20 years in the making.

Astronomers first started to systematically monitor impact flashes in 1997, an effort that evolved into the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System, or MIDAS, a survey conducted by the University of Huelva and the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalucia.

Madiedo joined the project in 2008. Using astronomical data from multiple observatories, MIDAS uses software to identify the moment a meteorite hits the darkened portions of the lunar surface.

The telescopes used by MIDAS are equipped with high-sensitivity video cameras and record video continuously during the observing session.

These videos are then analyzed by software, which automatically identifies lunar impact flashes and calculates their position on the Moon.

Madiedo said the system can detect the moment of an impact flash to an accuracy of about 0.001 seconds.

Since 2015, the team has applied photometric filters to some of their telescopes, allowing them to determine the temperature of these flashes.

As noted, MIDAS had (prior to yesterday) never captured a meteorite strike during a total lunar eclipse—but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Madiedo said he doesn’t know the exact number of eclipses MIDAS has monitored to date, but, weather permitting, he said every lunar eclipse has been monitored since the survey started.

Other groups have also tried to detect lunar flashes during an eclipse, said Madiedo, but none succeeded—until now.

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