Every few hours while observing the Moon, the ESA NELIOTA project captures a bright flash of light on the surface. This is the result of the fall of small fragments of cosmic rocks at high speeds on the surface of an earth satellite. This is an important project using the telescope of the National Observatory of Athens, which they decided to extend until January 2021.
From the past of the moon to the future of the earth
Light flashes are called transient lunar phenomena, because, despite the prevalence, these are fleeting phenomena with a fraction of a second duration. Because of this, they are difficult to study, because they are too small for accurate predictions of appearance. Therefore, scientists are interested in researching outbreaks. In addition, they are able to tell not only about the history of the moon, but also show the future of the Earth.
Watching the outbreaks on the Moon, the NELIOTA project seeks to determine the size and distribution of near-Earth objects (meteorites, asteroids or comets). This information will allow you to understand the risk that exists for planet Earth.
Close Surveillance of the Moon
In February 2017, the 22-month campaign began observing lunar flares with the 1.2-meter Kryoneri telescope (Kryoneri), the largest telescope on Earth to observe the Moon. The flashes created on the moon are much duller than the sunlight reflected from the lunar surface. Therefore, these events can be observed only on the dark (back) side of the Moon between the New Moon and the First Quarter, as well as the Last Quarter and the New Moon. The moon should also be located above the horizon, and for observation using a special camera with a quick capture.
Since March 2017, the NELIOTA project has been following the dark side of the Moon in search of flashes of light caused by the tiny cosmic rocks falling onto the lunar surface.
During 90 hours of observation, 55 blow events were recorded. Researchers say the extrapolation of data is almost 8 flashes per hour across the surface of the moon. Expansion of the campaign mission to 2021 will provide a complete sample of data.
The NELIOTA system for the first time uses a 1.2-meter telescope to observe the moon and finds flashes two times weaker than other lunar monitoring programs have seen (usually 0.5-meter telescopes and smaller are used).
In addition, the NELIOTA project is able to control the Earth satellite in two photometric ranges, which made it possible to determine the impact temperature - 1300-2800 ° C.
Modern approach to the ancient phenomenon
For thousands of years, people claim to notice flashes on the lunar surface. But only modern telescopes allowed to confirm and record these phenomena. Moreover, scientists are able to provide information on the size, speed, and frequency of events. It is important to note that the Earth is always in danger of being hit from space, so the new project allows you to control the surrounding space with greater accuracy. Photos
The location of the flash against impact on the lunar surface.
The NELIOTA project is funded by the ESA science program and is part of a project to create infrastructure in space and in the field to improve space monitoring and to understand the potential dangers for the Earth. Now the program creates a network of telescopes to constantly scan the sky for dangerous asteroids.