28th of May, 2020
On 2020 May 26, a flash was observed on the Moon. This event, which took place at 20:07:54 UT, was produced by the impact on the lunar surface of a large meteoroid (a rock or fragment coming from a comet or an asteroid). A second impact flash was observed about 24 hours later, on 2020 May 27 at 20:48:49 UT. Both events were recorded by several telescopes operating in the framework of the P3-NEO-I project, which is being conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA) and led by Deimos Space. These telescopes were operated in the south of Spain by researchers from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC), at the observatories of La Sagra and Seville.
The purpose of P3-NEO-I is to provide ESA with the support of several European observatories contributing to the follow-up and physical characterisation of the so-called near-Earth objects (NEOs): asteroids and comets whose orbits bring them to the vicinity of our planet and that could imply a threat for Earth.
One of the tasks included in the P3-NEO-I project is the detection and analysis of the collision of large rocks with the lunar ground. Unlike the Earth, the Moon has no atmosphere to protect it and, so, even small rocks can hit its surface. Since these impacts take place at huge speeds, the rocks get molten and vaporised at the impact site instantaneously, and this produces a thermal glow that can be detected through telescopes from our planet as short-duration flashes. In general, these flashes last only a fraction of a second. Besides these events are very dim, and so the telescopes must monitor the night side of the Moon since in this way impact flashes can be identified against the dark background. The results obtained from the analysis of these lunar impact flashes are useful to analyse which is the impact hazard for Earth.