Meteorite strikes moon during full lunar eclipse

Photo: ‘Super blood wolf moon’ inks Durango skies

Photo: ‘Super blood wolf moon’ inks Durango skies

Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles in the United States also recorded the impact during its livestream of the eclipse.

Madiedo and his research colleagues had been hoping for years to observe a meteorite impact during a lunar eclipse, so during this latest eclipse the team had double the number of telescopes (8, up from 4) pointed at different areas of the moon.

'Could this have been a meteor impact on the moon?' one person wrote.

A lunar eclipse happens when the moon passes through Earth's shadow. At the same time, a meteorite hit the moon during this event. The meteoroid that struck the moon last weekend would have been traveling faster (a minimum of about 12 km/s), but the best guess is that this rock might have been of suitable size to have fit in the back of a pickup truck, or thereabouts.

Perhaps because the impact occurred in a darker region of the lunar surface, the bright flash was caught by other observers too, and speculatively posted to Reddit before Madiedo's confirmation came on Monday. To take advantage of the three-plus-hour eclipse, he set up four extra telescopes in addition to the four he operates at the observatory in Seville.

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"I could not sleep for nearly two days, setting up and testing the extra instruments, and performing the observation during the night of January 21", he wrote. "I was really, really happy when [it did]".

It is called a super blood moon because the lunar eclipse taking place in January is going to be bigger and brighter than normal.

Then computer software alerted him to the impact.

"In total I spent nearly two days without sleeping, including the monitoring time during the eclipse", Madiedo explained to Gizmodo.

"I jumped out of the chair I was sitting on". The observation of such a rare event could help scientists understand the Moon's surface topography and reconstruct its impact history.

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