Something crashed into the blood moon during the lunar eclipse – and now scientists think they know what it is.

As the world looked up to watch the spectacle of the lunar eclipse, some noticed that something pecular appeared to collide with the moon. A small flash was observed in its side, though it wasn't clear what happened.

Normally, such a collision would have been invisible, because of the light from the Sun on the Moon's surface. But it was darker, because of the eclipse, meaning that the bright collision was still visible.

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And it was seen by a huge number of people, either watching themselves or viewing the spectacle through livestreams. Because of the eclipse, the event is probably the most documented collision ever by some distance.

Scientists were intrigued to solve the mystery of the collision. Though such impacts are relatively common – roughly every hour a small piece of space rock hits it, and without an atmosphere that will collide with the surface – but the fact it was seen by millions of people made it a useful opportunity.

Now analysis of the images has shed some light on the origin and details of the object that collided with the Moon.

 

According to the Colombian and Dominican astronomers who have published a paper on the collision, the falsh came when a meteoroid roughly the size of a beachball and with a mass of 20kg to 100kg crashed into the moon at a speed of roughly 47,000 km/h.

The impact set off a cloud of hot, bright material that expanded quickly and then disappeared in less than a second.

The collision would have left a crater more than 10 metres wide at the site of the impact. That could in the future be observed by a probe that could shed further light on the impact.

Karls Peña, member of the Dominican Astronomical Society and coauthor of the work, said in a statement that “social networks and easy access to technology, have brought humanity closer than ever to science (especially to non-experts)” and he adds “efforts like this, in which professionals and amateurs from different places work together for the advancement of human knowledge, are a very effective way to awaken interest in scientific research in our youngsters.”

 

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