Astronomers managed to capture the moment of an impact during the eclipsed moon this week.
Spanish astrophysicist José María Madiedo, from the University of Huelva, said on Wednesday that a rock of a comet appears that crashed into the moon during the total eclipse of the moon on Sunday and early Monday. The strike was seen by telescopes in Spain and elsewhere as a bright flash.
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Madiedo said it is the first impact flash that has been seen during a lunar eclipse, although these impacts of cratering are common.
The object struck at an estimated speed of 10 miles (17 kilometers) per second, and it was 22 pounds (10 kilograms) and 12 inches (30 centimeters) wide, according to Madiedo.
The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles also recorded the impact during its live transmission 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 image," Cook said of the second suspect shot, "and there may not be enough contrast to make the flash visible in our video."
Madiedo said that the monitoring of the lunar impact is usually made five days before and after the new moon, when the flashes can be easily observed. To take advantage of the eclipse of more than three hours, he installed four additional telescopes in addition to the four that operates at the observatory in Seville. "I did not want to miss out on any potential impact event," he explained in an email.
"I could not sleep for almost two days, setting up and testing the additional instruments and doing the observation during the night of January 21," he wrote. "I was really exhausted when the eclipse ended."
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Then the computer programs alerted him to the impact.
"I jumped out of the chair I was sitting on. I'm really happy, because I think the effort was rewarded, "he said.
Monitoring the moon can help scientists better predict the impact rate, not only on the moon but on Earth, Madiedo noted. Helps to execute the Impact Detection and Analysis System on the Moon, or MIDAS, in Spain.
Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press
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