May 20, 2013
Slooh To Broadcast Massive Lunar Asteroid Explosion
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
An organization aimed at bringing celestial event programming to everyone with a computer, iPhone or iPad is planning to broadcast the fiery explosion that took place on the moon just a few months ago.
On March 17 NASA astronomers witnessed how the Moon was rocked by a violent impact from an 88-pound asteroid, creating a flash nearly 10 times as bright as anything the space agency had seen before. Now Slooh says it wants to bring the boulder-sized asteroid impact to a screen near you.
Slooh Space Camera will be broadcasting a free, real-time feed of the lunar impact site at Mara Imbrium on Wednesday starting at 9:00 p.m. eastern time. The broadcast will include live commentary from astronomer Bob Berman and a panel to discuss the event in the context of Near-Earth Objects that have missed our planet.
"Apparently, a number of brilliant fireballs tore through Earth's atmosphere just as the lunar surface received a visible impact bright enough to create a one second point of light, seen by anyone watching the Moon at that moment," Berman, contributing editor and monthly columnist for Astronomy Magazine, said. "This suggests that a fairly dense swarm of meteoroids zipped through our orbit at that time, two months ago."
The asteroid was traveling at 56,000 miles per hour when it made a crater of about 197 feet wide. Bill Cooke of NASA´s Meteoroid Environment Office said the small chunk of rock exploded with the force of 5 tons. According to the space agency, anyone looking at the moon at that moment would have been able to see the explosion with the naked eye because the flash glowed like a fourth magnitude star.
Cooke said a number of cameras picked up an unusual number of deep-penetrating meteors on the same night, so it is likely these fireballs are connected. He said this event "constitutes a short duration cluster of material encountered by the Earth-Moon system."
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will help get a good reading of the crash site area. Scientists will also be comparing the crater size to the explosion brightness to give researchers some valuable data that go into lunar impact models.
Some scientists believe that asteroid impacts on the Moon may have helped create its magnetic material. They wrote in the journal Science last year that an asteroid slammed into the Moon about 4 billion years ago and left behind iron-rich, highly magnetic rock.
“Because the fields in this area are stronger than those found in any normal lunar rocks, our hypothesis is that it isn´t lunar material," said Sarah Stewart-Mukhopadhyay, the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Natural Sciences at Harvard and one of three co-authors of the paper. "We know the magnetic properties of asteroidal material are much higher than that of the Moon. It is possible that metallic iron from an asteroid could have been magnetized by the impact, and deposited on the Moon.”