Sharjah Astronomical Observatory detects rare sequential impacts on Moon

Sharjah Astronomical Observatory detects rare sequential impacts on Moon

SHARJAH, 26th January, 2021 (WAM) -- The Sharjah Astronomical Observatory at the Sharjah Academy for Astronomy, Space Sciences, and Technology (SAASST) of the University of Sharjah, has detected rare sequential impacts on the Moon.

Prof. Hamid M.K. Al Naimiy, Chancellor of the University of Sharjah, General Director of SAASST, and President of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences, announced this observation.

He added that these impacts were observed using the Sharjah Lunar Impacts Observatory Telescope (SLIO) of the Sharjah Astronomical Observatory. It consists of a three-metre-high dome equipped with a 14-inch Meade telescope and many sensitive instruments.

He stressed the importance of the SLIO telescope as it is conducting ground monitoring of the dark part of the moon to determine the rates and sizes of large meteoroids that hit its surface. This is to enhance understanding of lunar impacts’ effects on space missions, which in turn helps protect and facilitate manned space missions. Monitoring such phenomena opens the gate to study the types and effects of such impacts on the surface of the moon and how craters form over billions of years.

The University Chancellor affirmed that SAASST, thanks to the generous and continuous support of the Ruler of Sharjah, and through this great achievement confirms its capabilities in accomplishing this aspect of its scientific role.

Prof. Mashhoor Ahmad Al Wardat, Vice General Director of SAASST for Academic Affairs and the Sharjah Astronomical Observatory, confirmed that after analysing the time of impacts and their relative positions, the team concluded that they are a series of meteorite impacts. They resulted from the disintegration of the meteoroid due to the gravitational pull of the moon as it approaches its surface.

Meteoroids are fragmented and fall in pieces scattered longitudinally and happened in several impacts, such as the case of Comet Shoemaker-Levy when it approached the surface of Jupiter in 1994. Its parts were fragmented and collided with the planet in the form of a longitudinal chain. This also happened to the asteroid that hit Earth in 2008, and its parts were scattered over a wide longitudinal area in the Nubian Desert in Northern Sudan.

Prof. Al Wardat explained that the Sharjah Astronomical Observatory team is now working on a deeper analysis of these lunar impacts to determine the source and mass of the main object. This within the observatory's various projects, which include monitoring galaxies and binary stars, studying variable stars, and determining the age of star groups – all to disseminate scientific information and supporting research projects.

Talafha also stated there are monthly scheduled observations to monitor lunar impacts using the Sharjah Lunar Impact Observatory (SLIO) telescope. These impacts appear in the form of very short light flashes, sometimes reaching fractions of a second, so accuracy is crucial.

What distinguishes this series of impacts, he added, is that they occurred within a short time (one minute) and were of greater brightness than usual. Also, their flash periods were relatively long, as periods of up to a quarter of a second were recorded in each impact and this is considered a long time for such events. It is noticeable that these impacts spread in the middle of the dark eastern side of the moon at the time of observation and spread over a distance of 1000 kilometres on its surface.

He added that it appears from preliminary analyses of these impacts have created new craters on the surface of the moon ranging in diameter from 5 to 10 metres.

The observatory has recorded several impacts during the previous period as the first observatory in the Middle East dedicated to this type of observations. It also is collaborating with the European Space Agency in this type of observations.