Meteoroid Hits the Moon During Recent Lunar Eclipse

This is a treat. On Jan. 21st, a meteoroid slammed into the Moon. We know this because many amateur astronomers witnessed the explosion and recorded video and photos. The fireball was visible against the shadowy backdrop of a total lunar eclipse. Video of the event follows.

We know this because many amateur astronomers witnessed or photographed the explosion. Petr Horálek was one of them; he captured the fireball from Boa Vista, one of the islands of Cape Verde:

“As I was sorting through my pictures of the eclipse, I was trying to avoid images with dusty specks or hot pixels,” says Horálek. “Upon closer inspection, I realized this was no hot pixel. It was a flash of light on the Moon–and other astronomers had photographed it as well.”

At least a dozen reliable still images and videos of the impact have surfaced so far.

Here is video of the strike during the eclipse:

These images correspond to a lunar impact flash spotted by the telescopes operating in the framework of the MIDAS survey on Jan. 21, at 4:41:38 universal time (23:41:38 US eastern time). The impact took place during the totality phase of the lunar eclipse. The flash was produced by a rock (a meteoroid) that hit the lunar ground. The MIDAS Survey is being conducted by the University of Huelva and the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia.

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97 thoughts on “Meteoroid Hits the Moon During Recent Lunar Eclipse

    • Well, I think it’s pretty impressive to see a flash like that from 250,000 miles away (380,000 km)! The eclipse only lasted for an hour or so but seeing even one impact during that short time period is pretty remarkable. If you consider that the Moon is over 4,500,000,000 years old you can imagine just how many things have impacted it. And the rate of impact would have been very much higher in its early history.

      For many hundreds of years it had been thought that there were no more impacts to be seen on the Moon and reports of flashes for the last few hundred years have been dismissed as the observers’ imagination. Now we know that we don’t know everything…warmists take note.

      Presumably we only see the bigger (flashier) ones impact so there would probably be many much smaller ones impacting that we would never see. So the Chinese need to take their hard hats to the Moon.

      • I’m just curious, if it was big enough to see from earth, and astronomers know where it hit, if they will be able to identify and document a new crater. That would be cool!

        • The crater would be extremely small, centimetres in diameter, I doubt if the moon is mapped to that scale.

        • Yes, they have the coordinates so when the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter flies overhead, we should get pictures of this new crater.

      • Try blinking with both eyes, next time 😉

        The fireball was visible against the shadowy backdrop of a total lunar eclipse.

        It was not a “fireball” because there is virtually no atmosphere. It is friction of air which causes meteorites to burn up on Earth.

        These transient lunar events have caused much excitement and speculation over the years. Catching one during an eclipse is interesting since the flash cannot be put down to a dust cloud reflecting sunlight , which seems to be the usual explanation.

        • The flash was produced by a rock (a meteoroid) that hit the lunar ground.

          Wow, I love scientific certainty. They have a few pixels of blip on one frame of a video and they already know exactly what caused it and what it was made of.

          • It wasn’t just a blip on one video. This was caught on multiple videos and still images from multiple cameras. And they all show the identical thing. On the airless, lifeless, eclipsed moon only one thing could produce enough energy to make a flash that we could see from the Earth with very little magnification: an impact from something. Unless you want to posit a human, extraterrestrial, or supernatural origin, a meteor impact is the logical conclusion. Skepticism is not the same as oppositional defiance.

        • It was a fireball. The impact largely vaporizes the impactor and a certain amount of the lunar surface resulting in a rapidly expanding sphere of rock vapor a. k. a. as a fireball.

          • It helps to have an atmosphere with O2 for creating a “fireball”.

            But any ole atmosphere will suffice if “friction” is to be used to cause an increase in temperature of an object travelling thru said atmosphere.

        • Greg,

          “It was not a “fireball” because there is virtually no atmosphere. It is friction of air which causes meteorites to burn up on Earth.”

          Au contraire – the “dirty snowball” brings its own “atmosphere”: frozen gases!

          • Au contraire…assuming it was a whittle little comet. It may have been a stony or iron meteoroid in which case much less gaseous.

          • As the impactor was vaporised, it creates its own tiny ball of gas and within that, due to extremely high temperatures, the O2 would have dissociated and re-formed any of a variety of molecules emitting at least some of the visible light due to oxidation.

            A large fraction of the moon is oxygen and another large fraction, aluminum. It just looks like rock (’cause it is!).

  1. Did China lose a probe they’re not talking about? 🙂
    Well, the moon isn’t covered in scars because of acne.

    • And the thing is, on the moon there are no such things as meteors. The are all meteorites, they all impact, and you’ll never hear them coming, but if you’re close enough you’l feel the “whump!”

      • Well….that depends. With a large enough strike, the gasses created by the strike form their own atmosphere and do create a shock wave that can cause damage. But since a shock wave is technically not a sound (>195 dB) I suppose sound not traveling in a vacuum is still accurate.

        • Those who read on the subject will know that there are “sound waves” travelling through space across vast stretches of galaxies that take millions and billions of years to have effects, which are real and to a certain extent, quantified.

          They can be likened to pressure waves. I am not sure why a wave is classified as “sound” or not. Still, there are waves in space whereby motion of “things” is transferred to other things, ripples through whole galaxies are involved.

          As for what transmits the light from the impact on the moon to the beholders on Earth, some corrections are in order:

          “The fact that philosophers and sages have posited limits and restrictions for such matters is to be explained by the limitations of people’s minds and perceptions and the blindness of the followers of allusions, whose natures and intellects have been rendered dull and inanimate by the interposition of many veils.”


          “…to expose the baselessness of the arguments of those who are wandering blindly in their heedlessness, that the edifice they have built out of their vain imaginings may crumble and their profitless pursuits be discredited and fall into disrepute.”


          “Know then that…these great orbits and circuits fall within subtle, fluid, clear, liquid, undulating and vibrating bodies, and that the heavens are a restrained wave because a void is impossible and inconceivable. All that may be said is that the celestial bodies and the material bodies of the ethereal regions differ in respect of some of the substances and elements from which they are constituted, the quantities and proportions of these that go into their composition, the peculiar characteristics causing the difference in the outward effects of these bodies, and the properties that emanate from them in rich abundance. The celestial bodies that surround the material bodies also differ one from another in respect of subtlety, fluidity, and weight. It cannot be otherwise for a void is impossible.”
          – Extracts from the Tablet of the Universe

  2. I wonder if the seismographs left on the moon by Apollo are still functional. They should certainly register something as strong as this.

        • Perhaps I wrote inaccurately. I should have used ‘Meteoroid’.
          An object that enters a planets atmosphere is referred to as a meteor as it streaks across the sky.
          If any artifact actually makes it to impact it is called a ‘meteorite’.

          What I meant in my earlier comment is that no object approaching the moon will give any indication its coming by leaving a burning trail across the sky as meteors will on Earth. All too often the mistake is made to confuse and misunderstand an extraterrestrial event due in part by equating it with how it occurs here on earth.

        • But, but, but, .…. “meteor impacts” defines an action, not the object before or after said action occurred.

          I assume they are called meteor(s) prior to contact or impact with atmosphere and/or surface ……… and meteorite(s) after said contact or impact with atmosphere and/or surface.

  3. Ha! We was looking up at the moon at that time! It’s interesting to think I witnessed a meteor strike unawares.

    • I missed it too, but with these poor old eyes… and to think I was too lazy to set up my telescope!

  4. Was the flash from impact ejecta or explosion?

    Or both? Or are they the same thing?

    … or am I overcomplicating it?

      • Can there be an explosion without O2? I understand the heat part but what would make the visible light?

        • Lunar silica minerals hitting incandescent temperatures in milliseconds. If the meteor was nickel-iron, then also incandescent metals. 3,000K and above would do. Plenty enough KE for that.

          Remember incandescent bulbs???

        • What makes visible light from an explosion? The portion of the energy in the right wavelength.
          Different sensors would “see” different explosions.
          We just define “visible light” as the range of frequencies our eyes can monitor.

          • Super-heated Lunar silica-quartz-minerals and some iron-nickel from the meteor radiatively cooling in a few milliseconds through the visible light EM spectrum.

            What we perceive as a flash is radiative cooling of a rapidly expanding hot plasma, as the ionized atom’s electron outer shells transit back down energy levels non-coherently.
            Not unlike the light flash from a small nuclear weapon, just many orders of magnitude less energy at the highest end in the first few micro seconds.

          • Nice description Joel.

            Archie, if you can understand heat being created , it will give of infra-red radiation. If you have more impact energy, there will be more heating, things get hotter, the radiation will be higher energy and will be visible.

        • “brightest impact in recorded history”. Really? How does he know there was not a brigher one in Roman times ??

          A bit like the Guardian reporting Antarctic ice melting the “fastest in recorded history” with data going back to 2002 !

          Hey guys, recorded history is several thousand years, however you measure it.

          • ““brightest impact in recorded history”. Really? How does he know there was not a brigher one in Roman times ?? ”

            They didn’t record a brighter one? When we talk about recorded history, it is not about the time period but just the written history.

          • I would point out that this “might” be the “brightest impact” in recorded lunar history, but seems there was a series of impacts in Jupiter a fewe years ago with shock waves seen all across Jupiter, and a series of impact points each larger than earth in the upper Jupiter clouds.

          • Shoemaker–Levy 9

            I was so wrapped by this comet’s breakup and fall into Jupiter. Some of the impact splashes left a black stain three times the diameter of Earth. It was definitely a highlight in my life.

  5. The driver of the meteorite was probably texting.
    Clouds where I was so no soup-er moon for me. A very, very neat hard-to-beat treat to capture something like that!

  6. For all y’all who like a bit of math:

    Guesses in bold

    Meteor: 25 cm, 1.5 kg/L, 25 km/s

    Volume: 8.1ℓ
    Mass: 10 kg.
    Kinetic Energy: 3.1 GJ

    Fraction as heat: 15% = 460 megajoules
    Joules to photons = 1.44×10²⁷
    Photons per m² at Earth: 900,000,000

    Camera lens: 500 mm, f/5.6
    Opening area: 0.0063 m²
    Photons coming in: 5,000,000

    Since it only takes a few hundred photons (per pixel) to get a nice greyish exposure, well … there’s plenty of photons to do the job.

    Just saying,

    • The speed of the meteor at 25 km/sec may be a bit high if it were from the inner planetary debris. Maybe 20 +/- 2 km/sec would be my guess.
      (Wiki: Meteoroids moving through Earth’s orbital space average about 20 km/s (45,000 mph).)
      The impact appears as west of Mare Humorum, in the darkest field of the exposure of the lunar surface. This is a “trailing edge” hit on the moon. (Note the leading edge of the moon on the lower right was already getting some light on it was out of the Earth’s umbra. In other words, the meteor had to use its speed to overtake a retreating lunar surface. But the obliqueness of the hit (angle) to the surface is impossible to guage fro this flash.

      Mass would not need to be close to 10 Kg. 0.5 Kg would do as well. Even 0.1 Kg would be enough for a nickel-iron object to create a brief incandescent flash. The meteor mass needed for the observed flash would be highly dependent on composition of both the Lunar impact ejecta and the meteor’s comp itself.

      At 0.5 Kg, that’s enough energy to create a visible flash against the darkened Lunar (eclipsed) surface regardless of composition as cooling is only by radiative emission in the vacuum (thus allowing for plasma emission transition through the visible light energy levels).

      But fear, not. Once the partial US Govt shutdown is over, real scientists at NASA (not tohse climateers at GISS) will pour archived Lunar Atlas images and new images. They will find the new impact crater (even if just a few meters across), and model an estimated velocity (speed, angle) of the strike. Which will then allow them to assign a mass-range to and composition the meteoroid.

      • ” But fear, not. Once . . . . .. Which will then allow . . .”

        And someone will make sure the crowd here at WUWT will get pointed to that report.

        We could see only the early rise of the Moon that night, and so had to go outside (quite cold) to see the various stages. Expecting clouds, we got light haze. Still, watched much of it on a live feed.
        I remember when “news of the world” arrived in black and white at the 25 cent Saturday afternoon matinee.
        Now we get news from the moon in full color at near real time.
        Isn’t that great.

      • Don’t worry, if it is anything interesting they will blur the affected area before releasing the pics. 😉

      • 10 cm, 17 km/s (trailing edge catch-up estimate), 0.63 kg…
        70 MJ kinetic, 10 MJ photonic, 20,000,000 photons/m² at Earth.
        95,700 photons entering 500 mm f/5.6 lens.

        Yep, still plenty. As you say. GoatGuy

  7. I think it’s great that Earth’s atmosphere burns up alot of these to keep us safer. A few failed human projects as well. Thankfully the oceans are large and most likely will catch the outliers that reach the surface. It’s very cool that we can “see” and track objects. . I like the ones less than 1 LD, very exciting.

    • NASA engineer/scientists have to worry about and assess a meteor strike probability for any planned Lunar colony. This is of course due to the absence of a protective atmosphere for the Moon. Maybe not a problem for a few years-long colony, i.e. if the stay is short. But a long-term permanent Lunar habitation would definitely need to have meteor strike emergency response plans in place for any occupied structure within 10 meters of the the surface. Such as rapid sealing/closing airlock doors, compartmentalization architectures with independent life support, emergency provisions and vac suits (space suits) in every section so survivors could egress to undamaged sections or multiple Lunar ascent vehicles to get to an Earth return capsule, etc. Hard Vacuum Space is definitely Murphy’s Law stuff for the engineers.

  8. Was this naked eye visible? I had turned away while my 10 year old son was looking at the eclipse. He told me he saw a flash of light.

    I thought he meat a meteor, but when I asked him, he said it was just a flash of light. We didn’t discuss it further, but the time is about right.

    • I’d say Yes! Taking Goatguys 1.44E27 photons radiating into 2Pi steradians … that’s 2.3E26 photons/SR. Your son’s eye pupil subtends about 8E-23 SR at the moon distance, so about 20,000 photons (assuming no path losses) received.

      Most of the images taken can be used to radiometrically render the radiant intensity (W/SR) of the event, I’m sure this has already been done and discussed somewhere.

  9. Awesome event.
    Are the moon and earth is still gaining mass by cosmic bombardment?
    Has cosmic bombardment been steady from the origin of the Solar System or when did it taper off?
    Did the oceans bubble out of a cooling molten iron and silicon dust bunny in the solar system?
    Did our Moon get knocked out of a young Earth with a perfect hit that did not change our rotation or inclination?
    I realize these are all settled facts.
    I just find them baffling .

    • Actually, they are not settled facts. There is much disagreement about the formation of the Moon (and the solar system). There are fatal flaws in every theory-the best that can be said is that no one knows. And the more we learn about other solar systems the more shakey the current theories become. A paradigm shift in astronomy is needed like the paradigm shift that occurred in geology with plate tectonics. I have no clue what that would be (If I did I would be on the short list for the Nobel prize).

    • Are the moon and earth is still gaining mass by cosmic bombardment?


      Has cosmic bombardment been steady from the origin of the Solar System or when did it taper off?

      Presumably it is tapering off as the debris from the original cloud is either swept up into planets or kicked out of the solar system.

      Did the oceans bubble out of a cooling molten iron and silicon dust bunny in the solar system?

      Most scientists believe that the ocean was deposited on the earth after the earth cooled by what is referred to as the Late Heavy bombardment. The cause of this Late Heavy Bombardment is still subject to debate. A lot of scientists believe it may have been kicked off by Jupiter and Saturn getting locked into an orbital synchronicity. (Jupiter orbiting 3 times for every 2 times Saturn orbited.) These same scientists believe that this is also what kept Jupiter from spiraling into the inner solar system as large planets have done in other solar systems.

      Did our Moon get knocked out of a young Earth with a perfect hit that did not change our rotation or inclination?

      There is still much debate on this as well, what seems to be the most popular theory is that an object about the size of Mars did collide with the early earth some of the debris settled into an orbit about the earth and coalesced into the moon. The impact would have completely re-melted the earth.

  10. I can’t wait to find the YouTube videos debunking the explosion. There is a host of conspiracy nutjobs that insist and have video “evidence” that the Moon is NOT solid, but a projection. Seriously. Then there are the folks that believe the Moon emits its own “cooling” light i.e. it does not reflect the light of the Sun. Flat Earthers. Very entertaining to watch their mental/logical gymnastics.

    • They could be Trolls. There are people out there who love to get people riled up. They will argue anything to get people riled up.

      • click bait pennies. They start a U-tube “channel” , publish provocative BS and get lots of clicks.

        flat-earthers, I have to admit, seem to be honestly and sincerely deranged.

  11. I wish they would get rid of the giant arrows so we could see the hit for ourselves…

    Just sayin…

    • Chemical reaction is one cause of explosions, it is the definition of the word.

      Material will have been vapourised by the impact energy leading to a rapid expansion of gas and plasma. aka an explosion.

      Explosion means rapid expansion of matter , not a chemical reaction.

  12. Obviously it was a Chinese missile test gone wrong from their lander on the dark side of the moon.

    Now we know why the chose the dark side! /sarc if necessary.

  13. Many moons ago, I was watching a half Moon with binoculars and saw a fairly bright flash on the darkened part of the half Moon. At the time, I chalked it up to a TLE (sprite, blue jet or ELVE) which had just been recently discovered and documented about 30-35 years ago. It probably isn’t unreasonable to think that meteoroids/meteorites aren’t periodically hitting the Moon 🌙

    Since the Earth is under constant bombardment, it would appear the Moon is as well. Not to be unexpected albeit with a smaller gravity well, perhaps less so than here.

    • In terms of how many hits the moon gets, it benefits from the Earth’s gravity well as well. From far enough away, the earth and moon appear as a single object gravitationally.

  14. It is interesting that every lunar “ocean” (the darker, volcanic/impact-melted “seas” visible across much of the near face) are on the visible earth face of the moon.

    Farside photographs show 100% impact craters. No “Mares” at all.

    Now, one theory says “More impacts on the back side of the moon, therefore any flat, dark surfaces that might have been formed originally were covered over by more recent impacts.”
    Is not an equally valid opposing theory equally likely? “Many larger, much greater impacts on the near side caused more melting and lava flows of dark smoother rock that flooded over the previously impacted surface. The near side used to look like the far side, but now has been flooded over by recent major impacts.”

  15. The real questions are…

    1) How was this Trump’s fault?
    2) How is Global Warming contributing to the number and magnitude of meteoroid impacts on the Moon?


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