In late July, we reminded you to “look up” in early August to enjoy the annual Perseid meteor shower (read). Hopefully, many of you had an enjoyable and awe-inspiring experience (this author went out and saw one flash in the corner of his eye, but had to get back into bed for an upcoming long day). This year, a few amateur astronomers took their ‘looking up” a step further beyond Earth’s upper atmosphere, and focused their telescopes onto the surface of the Moon. Amazing bright flashes of meteor explosions on the surface of the Moon were seen using typical backyard telescopes!
This specific form of moon-gazing is actually quite important right now, as NASA has a program established to monitor meteor activity on the surface of the Moon. This effort is to better understand the safety requirements for the next generation of astronauts who will hopefully set up camp for a while.
The Lunar Impact Monitoring program at the Marshall Space Flight Center trains its telescopes toward the Moon as frequently as possible, but Moon phases and atmospheric conditions will often limit their coverage. In fact, they were unable to monitor the Moon during the Perseids. So, developing a world-wide team of amateur astronomers will greatly enhance the programs ability to accurately predict and monitor meteor activity, which will lead to better considerations for activity recommendations for lunar landings and extended camps.
DPRI already features this important citizen science project in our collection of Amateur Science Opportunities, and we will plan to write a more thorough review of the program in the near future.
“Amateur Astronomers See Perseids Hit the Moon” :: Science@NASA News :: September 2, 2008 :: [ READ ]