Since the 1950s, scientists have been observing what they call transient lunar phenomena — the appearance of brief flashes of light on the surface of the Moon.
It happens several times a week and sometimes lasting for hours. There have been plenty of theories that attempt to explain the mysterious phenomena, including the impact of a meteor, which can cause a brief glow or moon dust reacting with the electrical charges of the Sun.
However, a team of researchers from the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg believes that the transient lunar phenomena is caused by something else.
Mysterious Light Flashes On The Moon
"Seismic activities were also observed on the moon," said Hakan Kayal, a professor of Space Technology. "When the surface moves, gases that reflect sunlight could escape from the interior of the moon. This would explain the luminous phenomena, some of which last for hours."
To investigate, the researchers constructed their own lunar telescope and placed it in a rural area in Spain, about 100 kilometers north of the city of Seville. The private observatory can be controlled remotely from the university's location in Bavaria, Germany.
The telescope consists of two cameras that watch the Moon every night. It only takes action when both cameras simultaneously detect brief flashes of light, sending the research team an e-mail while taking photographs and videos of the phenomenon.
However, Kayal admitted that the system still needs a lot of work. He and his colleagues plan to use artificial intelligence that could distinguish brief flashes on the surface of the Moon from technical faults or other objects such as planes passing.
The system will also be used during a satellite mission to make lunar observations from orbit. Next, the team will compare their data from the observations made by the European Space Agency.
The ESA has been monitoring the transient lunar phenomena. In 2015, the agency established the NEO Lunar Impacts and Optical TrAnsients or NELIOTA to look for signs of impact flashes.
How It Could Affect Future Space Travelers
The researchers added that finding the cause of the phenomena is crucial, especially now with the renewed interest on the Moon. China, the United States, and Russia currently have plans to explore the lunar surface and eventually send astronauts to Earth's natural satellite.
"Anyone who wants to build a lunar base at some point must of course be familiar with the local conditions," said Kayal.