Mysterious outbreaks on the Moon found an explanation

Mysterious outbreaks that periodically appear on the Moon do occur after collisions of micrometeorites with the Earth’s satellite’s surface, scientists said at the annual planetarium conference DPS in the American Provo.

“Our telescope has two” eyes. “One looks at the moon in visible light and the other observes it in the infrared range, combining their images to measure the temperature of the moon’s surface at the points where these flares occur. we measure the density of those celestial bodies that produce flares, and understand how they originated, whether they were asteroids or comets? Now we are trying to find the answer to this question, “said Chrysa Avdellidou, a planetologist from the European Space Agency ESA).

In the past few decades, scientists around the world are actively monitoring near-Earth asteroids and conducting a kind of space “census” among them, trying to understand how dangerous they are to humanity. There are so many asteroids in near-Earth space that astronomers had to create a special scale for assessing how likely their fall to Earth.

Despite this, and the huge number of asteroids discovered in recent years with the help of ground-based telescopes and the WISE infrared orbital observatory, we still do not know many large asteroids and countless smaller objects the size of the Chelyabinsk meteorite that fell to Earth in February 2013.

To solve this problem, the European Space Agency created the NELIOTA project, within which a 1.2-meter telescope installed at the Kryoneri observatory in Greece was upgraded specifically for observing asteroids in the near-Earth space. ESA engineers and astronomers have installed several ultra-fast, high-resolution cameras capable of detecting traces of even the smallest objects falling to the surface of the Moon.

These observations, as she told Avdellid, helped to uncover the mystery of the mysterious microbreaks that appear on the Moon and notable probes in orbit and powerful telescopes on the surface of the Earth.

As shown by measurements with the help of the infrared part of NELIOTA, during the outbreak, the surface of the Moon warms up to a temperature of 1500-3000 degrees Kelvin. This indicates the only possible scenario for their birth – the collision of micrometeorites and asteroids with the Earth’s satellite’s surface.

According to scientists, the mass of these celestial bodies is really small – it is only a few hundred grams or a couple of kilograms. Typical dimensions of these “celestial stones”, as noted by astronomers, can not yet be measured – in two years of operation, NELIOTA telescopes recorded only two dozen such flares, and this is not enough to measure their density and calculate the exact dimensions.

According to astronomers, these progenitors of flares can be no more than a typical cobblestone on Earth if their density is high enough, or resemble the size of the Chelyabinsk meteorite if they are similar in composition to comets consisting almost entirely of ice.

A new piece of data collected by NELIOTA this year, as Avdellidu and her colleagues hope, will help find the answer to this question and understand from a physical point of view how exactly collisions of asteroids with the Moon are generated by those powerful flares that astronomers fix on its surface for several hundred years.