Credit: Jose Maria Madiedo/Jose L. Ortiz/MIDAS

The reported flash on the lunar surface during January’s total eclipse of the Moon was the result from a meteorite smacking into the Moon at roughly 38,000 miles per hour.

This event excavated a crater some 33 feet to 50 feet (10 to 15 meters) across.

Happening on January 21st — just after the total phase of the eclipse began – widespread reports from amateur astronomers indicated the flash was bright enough to be seen with the naked eye.

MIDAS touch

The Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS), using eight telescopes in south of Spain recorded the moment of impact.

Jose Maria Madiedo of the University of Huelva, and Jose L. Ortiz of the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, have published study results about the lunar impactor in a paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Credit: JM Madiedo

The impact flash lasted 0.28 second and is the first ever filmed during a lunar eclipse, despite a number of earlier attempts.

MIDAS telescopes observed the impact flash at multiple wavelengths improving the analysis of the event. Madiedo and Ortiz conclude that the incoming rock had a mass of 100 pounds (45 kilograms), measured 30 to 60 centimeters across, and hit the surface at 38,000 miles per hour (61,000 kilometers an hour). The impact site is close to the crater Lagrange H, near the west-south-west portion of the lunar limb.

Peak temperature

The two scientists assess the impact energy as equivalent to 1.5 tons of TNT, enough to create a crater up to 15 meters across, or about the size of two double decker buses side by side.

The debris ejected is estimated to have reached a peak temperature of 5,400 degrees Celsius, roughly the same as the surface of the Sun.

To read their paper — Multiwavelength observations of a bright impact flash during the 2019 January total lunar eclipse — go to:

https://academic.oup.com/mnras/article/486/3/3380/5480892

Also, go to this informative outreach video describing the event at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ir8nPSSLYQ&feature=youtu.be

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