ILLUMINATED MOVING TARGET : 1956 ?, EXPLAINED: AN IMPACTOR !
By Fran Ridge, Coordinator, The Lunascan Project
AbstractSeveral years ago, a noted colleague provided an interesting photograph of the Moon. This black and white photograph had never been previously published to our knowledge, except in a small and now-defunct publication known as The Heartland UFO Journal. It turns out that the photo had stirred controversey earlier than we had thought. Supposedly, one evening in June or July of 1956 the director of a major observatory in the midwestern United States had taken the picture and the object had been moving. The photo we had was a "reversed image" and had to be "flipped" over to show the proper surface detail registration. The image below is the corrected one. And the date was also corrected. It was Nov. 15, 1953!
On February 20, 2003 NASA released the following report and I recognized the photo as being the enigmatic photo we had posted earlier. See full NASA release below the images.
NASA SOLVES HALF-CENTURY OLD
Almost a half-century, numerous
space probes and six manned lunar landings later,
what had become known in astronomy circles, as
"Stuart's Event" was still an unproven,
controversial theory. Skeptics dismissed Stuart's
data as inconclusive and claimed the flash was a
result of a meteorite entering Earth's atmosphere.
That is, until Dr. Bonnie J. Buratti, a scientist at
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena,
and Lane Johnson of Pomona College, Claremont,
Calif., took a fresh look at the 50-year-old lunar
Buratti and Lane's reconnaissance of the 35-kilometer (21.75-mile) wide region where the impact likely occurred led them to observations made by spacecraft orbiting the moon. First, they dusted off photographs taken from the Lunar Orbiter spacecraft back in 1967, but none of the craters appeared a likely candidate. Then they consulted the more detailed imagery taken from the Clementine spacecraft in 1994.
"Using Stuart's photograph of the lunar flash, we estimated the object that hit the moon was approximately 20 meters (65.6 feet) across, and the resulting crater would be in the range of one to two kilometers (.62 to 1.24 miles) across. We were looking for fresh craters with a non-eroded appearance," Buratti said.
Part of what makes a moon
crater look "fresh" is the appearance of a bluish
tinge to the surface. This bluish tinge indicates
lunar soil that is relatively untouched by a process
called "space weathering," which reddens the soil.
Another indicator of a fresh crater is that it
reflects distinctly more light than the surrounding
Buratti and Lane's search of images from the Clementine mission revealed a 1.5-kilometer (0.93 mile) wide crater. It had a bright blue, fresh-appearing layer of material surrounding the impact site, and it was located in the middle of Stuart's photograph of the 1953 flash. The crater's size is consistent with the energy produced by the observed flash; it has the right color and reflectance, and it is the right shape. Having the vital statistics of Stuart's crater, Buratti and Lane calculated the energy released at impact was about .5 megatons (35 times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb). They estimate such events occur on the lunar surface once every half-century.
"To me this is the celestial equivalent of observing a once-in-a-century hurricane," observed Buratti. "We're taught the moon is geologically dead, but this proves that it is not. Here we can actually see weather on the moon," she said.
While Dr. Stuart passed on in 1968, his son Jerry Stuart offered some thoughts about Buratti and Lane's findings. "Astronomy is all about investigation and discovery. It was my father's passion, and I know he would be quite pleased," he said.
Buratti and Lane's study appears in the latest issue of the space journal, Icarus.
The NASA Planetary Geology and Planetary Astronomy Programs and the National Science Foundation funded Buratti's work. The California Institute of Technology manages JPL for NASA.
Francis L. Ridge