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A new crater on the moon and an exercise in physics

The SMART-1 spacecraft was not the only object to crash into the moon in the past year


On May 2, 2006, a new small crater was born on the moon. Through some exercises in physics, NASA scientists were able to calculate how it was created and who created it. The cratered moon has a new crater. Its diameter is 14 meters, its depth is about 3 meters and as of writing it is one month and 13 days old.
how do you know The scientists of the American space agency, NASA, saw how it was created. On May 2, 2006, a meteor hit the face of the moon in the area called the "Sea of ​​Clouds" (Mare Nubium) - Mare is a name for a flat and dark area of ​​the moon, which of course has no water (and the sea of ​​clouds, of course, also has no clouds). The sea can easily be seen from the earth, and in ancient times it was thought to be a sea - this is the origin of the name.

The kinetic energy of the meteor was 17 billion joules (1.7x10 joules) - which is equivalent to about 10 tons of explosive TNT. When the meteor hit the ground, a glowing "fireball" was created that was picked up by the video device using a relatively small telescope - 4 cm in diameter. Since the moon does not have an atmosphere, it is of course not a question of fire created by burning these hot lumps of material that were blown away from the impact site.
Such events are not uncommon. Blocks of rock hit the moon all the time, but this time all phases of the impact were recorded in the best quality yet. The video shown here is projected at 7 times slower than the actual speed. In reality the flash of light was too short for us to notice it with the eye - about four tenths of a second.


A meteor strikes the moon on May 2, 2006. The video was recorded by MSFC engineers Heather McNamara and Daniel Moser

Physics exercise

The flash was first seen by physics student Nick Hollon from Villanova University in the USA. Using the duration of the flash and the intensity of the light, the scientists could estimate the energy of the impact, the dimensions of the crater and the size and speed of the meteor. It is a space rock that is only about 25 cm wide and moves at a speed of 38 km per second.
If such a rock had hit the earth, it would not have reached the ground at all. The meteor would have hit the atmosphere, heated up, burned and broken into pieces - it would have created a spectacular streak of light in the night sky, but not a crater. But, since there is no atmosphere protecting the moon, it is exposed to all meteors, and even the smallest ones create impressive explosions and scatter material everywhere.

Future danger?

As we know, the Americans intend to return and send humans to the moon in the next decade. Are they in danger? This is what NASA scientists are trying to find out with telescopes aimed at the moon, like the one that discovered the new impact. Tracking these sparkles will give an answer to the questions of how often meteors hit the moon and what the intensity of the impact is. NASA's computerized telescopes scan the night side of the moon looking for vulnerabilities. This is not possible every night, such as on full moon nights or cloudy nights, so they can only detect impact sparkles about 10 nights a month.
The telescope began operating on November 7, 2005, and already on the first night a flash was captured. It was a fragment of Comet Anka that created a crater about 3 meters wide. The crater of May 2, 2006 is the second, and this time it's probably just a small random meteor that has no connection to a comet or larger asteroid.
The scientists hope to answer questions such as: Is it safe to go on a walking tour on the moon during a meteor shower? What is the protection needed for a base on the moon? Does the Moon have its own meteorites that we don't know about from Earth?

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