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The Moon. It is Exploding.

The surface of the moon

Over the past two years astronomers at have observed over one hundred explosions on the moon’s surface. These explosions are the results of impacts by meteoroids and have measured as powerful as a few hundred pounds of TNT. It is no surprise that the moon suffers impacts, look at the image of the moon’s surface above. What is interesting is the observable frequency of these impacts in the last 24 months, which is quite a bit more intense than astronomers were expecting. This is an important phenomena for NASA to observe and understand as we get closer to the reality of a new effort to send astronauts to the moon and eventually set up a permanent lunar base. Essentially, there is no place on the moon that is impact free, nor is there a time that is less intense for impacts than others. The image below depicts the locations of the recorded impacts since initiation of the program:

map of moon impacts 2005-2008

The frequency and explosive power of these impacts pose a number of challenges to lunar astronauts, not so much from the risk of a direct hit but more from the risk of a secondary hit by one of the millions of particles that the explosions create and that shoot out from the impact area like bullets. A piece of debris 1 millimeter in diameter could penetrate an astronauts suit and damage equipment.

The first impact was recorded very shortly after the initiation of the moon impact observation program and recorded the strike of a meteoroid about the size of a baseball. Most of these impacts are the result of small meteoroids, some little bigger than a small rock or pebble, but they are traveling in excess of 30,000mph and hit the moon with incredibly violent force. A meteoroid the size of a pebble can create a crater several feet across.

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One Response to “The Moon. It is Exploding.”

  1. john black Says:

    Generally Ido not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so! really nice post.

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