Rock from comet slams into moon during eclipse

Telescopes capture moment of impact during eclipse of moon

Astronomers managed to capture the moment of an impact during this week’s eclipsed moon.

Spanish astrophysicist Jose Maria Madiedo of the University of Huelva said Wednesday it appears a rock from a comet slammed into the moon during the total lunar eclipse late Sunday and early Monday. The strike was seen by telescopes in Spain and elsewhere as a bright flash.

READ MORE: Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Madiedo said it’s the first impact flash ever seen during a lunar eclipse, although such crater-forming impacts are common.

The object hit at an estimated 10 miles (17 kilometres) per second, and was 22 pounds (10 kilograms) and 12 inches (30 centimetres) across, according to Madiedo.

Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles also recorded the impact during its livestream of the eclipse. A second flash was seen a minute after the first by some observers, said Anthony Cook, an astronomical observer at Griffith.

“It was in the brightest part of the moon’s image,” Cook said of the second suspected strike, “and there might not be enough contrast for the flash to be visible in our video.”

Madiedo said lunar impact monitoring generally is conducted five days before and after a new moon, when flashes can be easily observed. 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. “I did not want to miss any potential impact event,” he explained in an email.

“I could not sleep for almost two days, setting up and testing the extra instruments, and performing the observation during the night of Jan. 21,” he wrote. “I was really exhausted when the eclipse was over.”

READ MORE: Super blood wolf moon fills Okanagan skies, to photographers’ delight

Then computer software alerted him to the impact.

“I jumped out of the chair I was sitting on. I am really happy, because I think that the effort was rewarded,” he said.

Moon monitoring can help scientists better predict the rate of impacts, not just at the moon but on Earth, Madiedo noted. He helps run the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System, or MIDAS , in Spain.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Union Club of B.C. votes in its first female president

16-year member Grace Van den Brink previously served as vice president

Pipeline protestors plan march as Trudeau gives Trans Mountain the go-ahead,

20 kilometre march to protest the pipeline starts in Victoria, ends on Saanich Peninsula

Summer transit route increases hit Greater Victoria hotspots starting July 1

Canada Day routes operate on Sunday-level service with select late-night service

Saanich jam stand at the centre of controversy prepares to close

Staff review of roadside stand legislation too late for Little

Victoria seventh most youth-friendly Canadian city: national index

B.C. capital tops YouthfulCities’ education and creative arts categories

VIDEO: Trans Mountain expansion project gets green light, again

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the decision in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you support the government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion?

The federal government announced Tuesday its approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline… Continue reading

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

Ginger Goodwin’s Cumberland cemetery grave desecrated

Just days before the Miners Memorial weekend, Ginger Goodwin’s grave has been… Continue reading

B.C.’s measles vaccination program gains traction in May

More than 15,000 doses of the MMR vaccine has been administered across the province

B.C. farmers concerned Agricultural Land Reserve changes choking their livelihood

Dozens voice concerns at special meeting hosted on Vancouver Island

UPDATE: Two-year-old involved in Chilliwack pool drowning has died

Toddler was reported to not be breathing as air ambulance called out Thursday afternoon

Most Read