Observe the Moon and Learn Fascinating Insights About Asteroid Impacts!

Observe the Moon and Learn Fascinating Insights About Asteroid Impacts!

Observe the Moon and Learn Fascinating Insights About Asteroid Impacts! https://asteroidday-uploads.s3.eu-central-1.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/06193622/1.Observe-the-Moon-and-learn-fascinating-insights-about-asteroid-impacts-.gif 390 265 Asteroid Day Asteroid Day https://asteroidday-uploads.s3.eu-central-1.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/06193622/1.Observe-the-Moon-and-learn-fascinating-insights-about-asteroid-impacts-.gif

Observing the Moon through a telescope is a captivating experience that never fails to draw people in. You can set up your telescope in an open area or a street, and like a spell, you’ll witness the bewitching effect it has on people passing by. With just a single glance, their curiosity blossoms into admiration, sparkling smiles and fostering unexpected friendships. It’s a unique connection that the beauty of the Moon effortlessly creates among those who take a moment to appreciate the wonder of the night sky.

Observation of lunar craters through telescopic conducted on Asteroid Day 2023 in Italy (on the left) and Tunisia (on the right) (Fondazione CRT / Société Astronomique de Tunisie)

Engaging in the observation of the Moon holds significant educational and interdisciplinary value. It serves as a valuable tool for understanding various concepts in Astronomy and linking them to our daily lives. The unique characteristics of the Moon, widely recognized by enthusiasts, offer a concrete connection to the history of asteroid impacts. This connection to the Moon’s marked surface not only enriches our knowledge of the past but also serves as a strong reminder of the ongoing possibility for such objects to impact our planet in the present and future.

On Earth, the majority of space objects are destroyed by our protective atmosphere, before reaching the surface. However, the Moon, without an atmosphere, is vulnerable to direct impacts. This is evident in the numerous craters that can be seen on its surface. The lunar landscape is unique and serves as a visible reminder of how destructive asteroid impacts can be on rocky celestial bodies. From our perspective, we can readily observe the profound impact these collisions have had, providing valuable insights into their consequences.

Given the limited number of identifiable craters on Earth, which have been altered over time by erosion and geological processes, the Moon presents a more reliable backdrop for studying the risks and outcomes of asteroid impacts. Here are some guidelines for exploring the Moon during your Asteroid Day events and extracting good insights about planetary defence:

Optimal lunar phases for an event – Traditionally, the Moon has four primary phases, with an additional four intermediate phases also recognized. Focusing only on the main phases, the most favourable moments for an observation event are those that align with the first and last quarters, or in close proximity to them.

During these phases, the sun’s rays illuminate the lunar surface at an inclined angle as viewed from the Earth, creating shadows that highlight the geographical characteristics and the depths of craters, especially those near the terminator—the recognized demarcation between day and night. 

Lunar surface topography and crater depths documented across various phases of the Moon. The illumination angle of sunlight imparts distinct visual features to impact craters. (Plato crater / Mark Phillips – Astronomy Edinburgh)

Additionally, these stages offer an optimal balance, being sufficiently illuminated to reveal surface details, yet not overly bright like the Full Moon, which tends to obscure finer features. Even in regions impacted by light pollution, utilising equipment for observation still allows for discerning lunar details without compromising the observation’s quality. 

 During the First Quarter, the Moon reaches its highest point in the night sky early on. In some latitudes, it is positioned near the zenith—the highest point in the sky. This positioning is advantageous for observation events held in areas with trees or tall buildings as it minimises obstacles. On the other hand, the Last Quarter is a favourable choice for events that start later in the night and extend into the early morning.

The Moon in Daylight – Many Asteroid Day events are hosted in venues that have limited access to nighttime viewing. An alternative option is observing the Moon during the day. During these two-quarter phases or close to them, the Moon is brighter than the Sun’s glare above the horizon, making it easier to appreciate its surface details.

In locations that are primarily open during daylight hours, such as schools, the Moon serves as a valuable educational alternative and can be observed two hours before sunset or two hours after sunrise.

The Moon in Daylight: an alternative for telescope watching events in Constrained Environments.(SciTech Daily)

Real-time impacts – It is possible to capture real-time impacts on the Moon! Astronomers have successfully witnessed and recorded the remarkable event of an asteroid collision, thanks to a combination of favourable circumstances and unwavering dedication. This breakthrough is accomplished by capturing illuminated flashes against the lunar surface during nighttime.

Lunar impact recorded by astronomer Daichi Fujii from Hiratsuka City Museum in February 2023. A flash can be seen in the lower right corner of the animation.

There is no doubt that the Moon presents a variety of opportunities to educate your audience about asteroid impacts! Consider enriching your event with these tips:

How to Create a Crater workshop – A standout activity at Asteroid Day events involves guiding participants on the creation of craters. With this Science Buddies tutorial or this NASA video, you can easily provide a list of essential ingredients for the experiment. This not only allows you to explain the process of crater formation in a clear manner but also turns the activity into an enjoyable and engaging experience for all participants.

Impact crater workshop organized by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, India.

Moon Impact simulator – What were the sizes and compositions of the asteroids responsible for creating the lunar craters? What speeds and angles are required for asteroids to create the most significant craters on the Moon? This simulator not only offers valuable insights but also enables you to visually comprehend the impact damage resulting from different collision scenarios.

Discover the lunar crater names – The naming of lunar craters often takes inspiration from scientists, thinkers, and mythological figures. The International Astronomical Union’s Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature provides detailed information on the officially designated lunar crater names, explaining their origins. Interestingly, a significant number of these names are not exclusive to lunar features but are also attributed to asteroids. To explore this fascinating correlation, select names of interest and cross-reference them with the JPL Small-Body Database Lookup. This will reveal if these names are also used for asteroids in our celestial vicinity.

Global Moon observation projects –  Prior to and following Asteroid Day, there are opportunities to participate in global projects and initiatives focused on the Moon. Prominent among these are “On The Moon Again”, “International Moon Day,” and “International Observe the Moon Night”. This article also provides additional alternatives that are accessible year-round.

Here are also some useful tools for you to decide the best time for your event:

  • This lunar mosaic made by Robert Reeves shows all regions on the visible side of the Moon and highlights its craters.
  •  Virtual Moon Atlas is one of the best free options available for PC, with versions executable on Windows and Linux operating systems.
  • For mobile devices, there is the Moon Atlas 3D and GlobeViewer Moon available for Android systems. For iPhones and iPads, some options are the Moon Atlas and the Moon Globe HD.
  • Astropixels website has a Calendar of lunar phases until the year 2100! To know in real-time which phase the Moon is in, one of the options is Moon Phases Today.
  • Would you be interested in undertaking the opportunity to document an impact on the lunar surface? NELIOTA presents some guidelines and provides software specially designed for this. Don’t forget to check the calendar of meteor showers and lunar eclipses to increase your chances of capturing an impact.

Don’t forget to register your event online. After, submit your event report, so that we can know and share your wonderful experiences involving the Moon.