Something occurred during the total lunar eclipse on Sunday. As Americans watched the moon pass into the Earth's shadow, astronomers also managed to capture a space object slamming into the lunar surface.
Rock Crashes Into Moon During Total Lunar Eclipse
On Wednesday, Jose Maria Madiedo, an astrophysicist at the University of Huelva, said that telescopes in Spain captured what appears to be a rock from a comet crashing into the moon during the total lunar eclipse. The crash was seen by telescopes as a bright flash.
The rock is estimated to measure 12 inches across and weigh about 22 pounds. Experts said it likely hit the moon's surface at a speed of 10 miles per second.
Unlike meteorites that hit Earth, those that crash into the moon are not impeded because of the absence of an atmosphere. The energy of these meteor strikes generate explosions on atomic scales.
Madiedo said this is the first time an impact flash was seen during a lunar eclipse albeit these crater-forming impacts on the moon are common.
Sara Russell, from the Natural History Museum in London, said the flashes produced by these lunar impacts can only be seen from Earth when the lunar surface is in shadow, which usually happens just a few days before and after the new moon when the bright light can be easily observed.
The strike happening during totality last weekend provided the perfect opportunity to capture the impact flash.
Suspected Second Impact
Anthony Cook, an astronomical observer at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, which streamed the eclipse, said the impact was also recorded during the livestream. He said that some observers even saw a second flash a minute after the first.
"It was in the brightest part of the moon's image, and there might not be enough contrast for the flash to be visible in our video," Cook said of the second possible impact.