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Molten Blobs Create Moon Flashes

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posted on Jan, 27 2012 @ 07:23 PM
Mysterious lunar lights are the superhot remains of meteorites pelting the surface


By Nadia Drake - Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Meteorites colliding with the moon sometimes set off tiny lights dancing across its surface. Now scientists think they know what powers these lunar lightbulbs, in the absence of any atmosphere that would otherwise set incoming meteors ablaze: The flashes result from superhot material kicked up by the tiny objects striking the moon’s surface.

“You have just a small piece of cometary material or asteroid, about 10 centimeters, that can do a very bright flash visible from the Earth,” says study coauthor Sylvain Bouley, a planetary scientist at the Paris Observatory.

The study, which will appear in March in Icarus, settles an old debate about where the twinkling lunar lights come from. Observed for more than half a millennium, lunar impacts occur hundreds of times each year. Meteor showers, like the Leonids in November, can dump as many as 20 objects on the moon in one night.

Further on in the article...

And characterizing impact hazards is useful for anyone thinking about developing a future moon base, says study coauthor and planetary scientist David Baratoux of the University of Toulouse in France.

“It will be important to know how much of this impact will form on the moon,” Baratoux says. “How big are the projectiles, and how fast they go and so on.”

Moon bases are all the rage these days aren't they?

They found that impacts were hot enough to release a mix of gas and liquid from the destroyed impactor. Some of that liquid, called melt droplets, produces light as it cools, creating the flash.

“Something is melting, and because it’s so hot, it radiates in the visible wavelength until it cools down,”

What is this liquid exactly?

To the best of my knowledge molten lava or molten iron (or other metal) would be the only liquids that could produce those properties. The Moon has no atmosphere so there is no friction there. The meteorites are not heating up in space, at most they'd get to about 250° F and that's if they're in direct Sunlight before impact.

I guess friction could occur with the impact itself and could perhaps be enough to heat up ...say... a primarily iron (or other metal) based meteorite enough to produce a flash visible from earth.

I picture the same effect as if you were to strike a chain on concrete and the resulting sparks that may be produced. However, I just don't see enough heat being created from the friction that would be created from an impact on the Moon that has no atmosphere. Especially that would reduce a meteorite to a molten liquid form that whilst it cools in a flash would be luminescent enough to be seen from Earth.

If they're referring to the "iron sparks" then it makes a little more sense but even still it's hard for me to imagine with what my knowledge is of the Moon. Luminescent cooling liquid though, doesn't make sense to me with the properties that to my knowledge are present on the Moon.

Personally, this is the first time I have ever heard of these types of flashes occurring on the Moon. I did a search and here are a couple of threads pertaining to "Moon Lights":

2007 - Strange lights on the Moon
2008 - Strange moon's light + UFO photos

Is it safe to presume that this discovery officially debunks "Moon Lights", or does it leave too much room for variance?

It may be my unfamiliarity surrounding this subject but I am not completely convinced as of yet.

There are a handful of YouTube videos where the video-grapher claims to be filming "strange lights" but of the ones I watched I didn't really see anything indicative of what this article says is happening. The only thing I saw even remotely close was this video, but it's not the best quality.

Here is the link to the YouTube search query perhaps someone else can skim through the videos and post a video that would be more indicative to this phenomena. As always any additional information and comments are appreciated as well.
edit on 1/27/2012 by UberL33t because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 27 2012 @ 07:54 PM
I have not heard of strange projectiles of flashes belting around the moon or near its surface before, but we are well aware of lunar impacts, in fact, the Marshall Space Flight Center Lunar Imapct Monitoring site also gives amateur astronomers help in observing these impact from as small as a 6-inch telescope from here on earth. An interesting site, it may take a while to navigate it to pertinent info if you have a nice home telescope.

I must read a bit more about what you describe, it sounds interesting after a quick browse. It sounds like new information to me, a star and flag for UberL33t.

posted on Jan, 27 2012 @ 08:01 PM
Even a slow meteor traveling at 25,000 MPH, atmosphere or not, when it hits a solid object the energy released is going to tremendous. A release of that amount of energy will definitely be visible.
edit on 27-1-2012 by mileysubet because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 27 2012 @ 08:37 PM
reply to post by mileysubet

This sort of leads us to the question posed by some of why most all impact craters are round. Explained. one would think there would be a myriad of impact angles not reflected in the round craters. Well sir you just hit on lending us some insight on explaining this phenomena. The energy released in a high speed impact, atmosphere or not, angle of impact is insignificant in the creation of the tremendous force released like a bomb, and a low angle impact is like releasing a surface bomb as a high angle impact is, thus with less atmosphere, the bomb will go off spherically, creating those round craters. Like if you planted a nuclear weapon and set it off on the ground, boom, a round hole.

If you really look at the moon and Mars, there are oblong impact craters, but nobody sites these things when they go off in their speculative questioning barrage tirade. However, they are not very common, and could also be from multiple strikes, but they exist.

Like this one on Mars.

posted on Jan, 27 2012 @ 09:02 PM
reply to post by mileysubet

Visible, I agree, but what properties have to be present to make a flash of light visible from Earth?

I have done a little reading up on meteorites and it appears that some do possess compounds that are flammable and seemingly indeed cause the phenomena to occur.

One example is

Naphthalene is an organic compound with formula C10H8. It is a white crystalline solid with a characteristic odor that is detectable at concentrations as low as 0.08 ppm by mass.[1]

In 1821, John Kidd described many of this substance's properties and the means of its production, and proposed the name naphthaline, as it had been derived from a kind of naphtha (a broad term encompassing any volatile, flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture, including coal tar).[2]

Naphthalene has been found in meteorites. It has also been discovered in the interstellar medium in the direction of the star Cernis 52 in the constellation Perseus.[7]

Begging your pardoning of the Wikipedia source.

Some pretty interesting stuff happening on the Moon.

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