Possibility and Probability

A Python programmer with a personality thinking about space exploration

24 December 2005

An explosion on the moon

by Nick

We know that the earth runs into small meteorites all the time (ranging from dust size up to small boulders). We see these as “Shooting Stars” in the night time sky. But here’s something you might not have thought about: The moon get hit too. Unlike the earth, the moon has no thick atmosphere to protect it, so when something hits, it hits. This article talks about a telescope that has been setup to monitor the moon for the these types of collisions. On its first night in operation it captured the explosion of a 12cm meteor impacting the lunar surface at 27 km/s! The resulting explosion was equivalent to 70 kg of TNT and it is thought to have left a crater 3 meters in diameter! An interesting tidbit from the article is that they are reviewing the data from the telescope by watching it, not by having a computer process it. That blew my mind, these explosions from impacts would probably be really short lived events. Plus imagine all of the cross checking the computer could do: As it finds a flash it could look to see if there were any satellites in the vicinity, then check the duration of the event to make sure it wasn’t a cosmic ray, it could cross check with another telescope to make sure it wasn’t a fluke camera malfunction… The possibilities are endless. I really need to get more involved in virtual astronomy, there is just so much coolness happening there.