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A Meteorite Crashed Into the 'Super Blood Wolf Moon'

It was the first time an impact has been captured on film during a total lunar eclipse.

by Becky Ferreira
Jan 22 2019, 8:46pm

The tiny speck of light on the lower left is a meteorite crashing into the Jan 20/21 lunar eclipse. Image: Griffith Observatory

On Sunday, as skywatchers took in the “Super Blood Wolf Moon,” a total lunar eclipse that coincided with a supermoon, careful observers were treated to a bonus surprise—a meteorite impact.

A quick flash spotted in eclipse livestreams inspired Redditors to tally up footage and images from different sources. All of them showed the flash at the same timestamp of 11:41 PM ET, just as the total eclipse started. Scientists and astrophotographers quickly took to Twitter to offer more pictures and perspectives.

The impact was officially confirmed on Monday by José María Madiedo, an astronomer at the University of Huelva in Spain. Madiedo and his colleagues have been monitoring lunar eclipses for years with the MIDAS (Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System) network of telescopes, specifically looking for impacts.

Sunday marks the first time a meteorite has been captured on film during a total lunar eclipse.

“I had a feeling, this time will be the time it will happen,” Madiedo told New Scientist. “I was really, really happy.”

It’s easier to catch the bright flash of surface collisions against a darkened Moon, so the MIDAS team monitors the lunar surface during New Moons and lunar eclipses. Madiedo’s initial estimate suggested that the rock that went out in a blaze of lunar glory weighed about two kilograms (four pounds) and was about the size of a football.

Read More: Asteroids Crash Into Earth Over Twice as Often as 290 Million Years Ago

For astronomers, observations of lunar meteor hits are important for understanding the Moon’s surface topography and reconstructing its impact history.

For the casual observer, it doesn’t hurt that they look real pretty, too.

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