The Basketball and the Moon

The most recent lunar eclipse brought us some pretty impressive images. There were thousands of people watching on January 21st when something unexpectedly crashed into the moon’s surface.


Professional and amateur astronomers used fortuitous videos and images of the impact to determine the size of the object. A team of astronomers used these amateur photographs and the video, which was live-streamed on the website, and they concluded that the impact released a similar amount of energy that you get from an explosion caused by half a ton of TNT.

By all calculations, for that amount of energy to be released, the object in question needs to be the size of something between a baseball and a basketball. The weight of the object needs to be anywhere between 7 and 40 kilograms. This is the equivalent of a few cans of paint. And finally, it needs to be hitting the surface at a speed of at least 14 kilometers per second.

The scientists who released these findings missed the lunar eclipse due to clouds. The next day, they picked up on the reports that some observers noticed a bright flash believed to be from a meteor strike.

After gathering all the info from the amateur observers, the team of scientists determined that the meteor left behind a crater that is anywhere from five to 10 meters wide. A lunar orbiter is going to be perfectly capable of spotting this crater.

Because this impact was spotted during a lunar eclipse, scientists are now surer than ever that meteors hit the moon’s surface regularly. If a strike was seen during an hour-long eclipse chances are, they are not as rare as some people might think.

This event also revealed how important it is for amateur and professional astronomers to share their findings with each other.

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