Technology & Science

Watch as 2 meteors slam into the moon

A highly sensitive camera is reminding us why we see so many craters when we look up at the moon, capturing brilliant flashes as two meteors crashed into its surface.

Fragments were likely part of ongoing Alpha Capricornids meteor shower

Ancient leftover debris from the formation of our solar system slammed into the moon last month, with the impact caught on the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS). (Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System/Jose Maria Madiedo)

A highly sensitive camera is reminding us why we see so many craters when we look up at the moon.

The Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS), a series of telescopes with high-sensitivity CCD video cameras, recently captured brilliant flashes as two meteors crashed into the moon's surface on July 17 and 18.

Two meteorite impacts, almost exactly 24 hours apart, were observed on July 17 and July 18. (Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System/Jose Maria Madiedo)

The European Space Agency, which shared the GIF of the impacts, says the meteorites were likely part of the Alpha Capricornids meteor shower — and probably only the size of walnuts.

Our solar system is full of dust and debris left over from its formation; comets and asteroids — some of the remaining larger bodies — can shed some of their makeup as they orbit the sun.

Planets and moons in orbit, meanwhile, can cross into the path of debris left over from these comets or asteroids. When this happens on Earth, we see the debris as meteors streaking across the sky. And larger pieces can make it to the ground, as was the case in February 2013 in Chelyabinsk, Russia.

Earth's moon has no atmosphere to burn up small debris, which is why these two small meteorites were able to make it to its surface.

One of the most remarkable instances of a collision between two objects in the solar system occurred in 1994, when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 broke up into pieces and eventually slammed into Jupiter. The event marked the first time astronomers had ever directly observed such an impact.

The Hubble Space Telescope captured changes in Jupiter's atmosphere caused by collisions with fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994. The blasts left Jupiter with a temporarily 'bruised' appearance, caused by black debris tossed high above the planet's cloud tops. (Hubble Space Telescope comet team, NASA)

Having cameras trained on the moon is about more than just taking videos and images. Scientists are observing the moon to determine how often impacts occur and to better forecast the chances of collisions with Earth.

About the Author

Nicole Mortillaro

Senior Reporter, Science

Nicole has an avid interest in all things science. As an amateur astronomer, Nicole can be found looking up at the night sky appreciating the marvels of our universe. She is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and the author of several books.


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