An image of the moon taken during the January total eclipse shows a small flash indicating a high-speed impact by a small meteoroid. Image: Jonathan Ospina, Mauricio Gaviria, Sergio López, Observatorio LaLoma, Colombia
During the 21 January total lunar eclipse, amateur and professional skywatchers on both sides of the Atlantic spotted a small flash near the moon’s darkened limb, the apparent impact of a small meteoroid.
“Something like this probably did not happen since the 12th century when a group of English monks observed together what they described as fire, hot flashes and sparks,” said Pablo Cuartas, co-founder of the Astronomy undergraduate program at the University of Antioquia. “Although on this occasion the impact did not have the energy of the middle-age impact, it was enough for astronomers and enthusiasts of the world to get excited about the event.”
Combining observations from amateur astronomers and observatories in Morocco, the Dominican Republic and Colombia, researchers calculated the impactor likely had a diameter between 10 and 27 centimetres (0.3 and .9 feet) and a mass of 7 to 40 kilograms (15 to 99 pounds).
Hitting the lunar surface at around 47,000 kilometres per hour (28,000 mph), the object likely blasted out a ...