Lunar Meteor Event

The following video does a good job of explaining, but let me throw in a few words. I used to work at NASA Marshal in the big white building on stilts. (The Lunar Telescope Facility) Heck of a job to hike up those stairs. I stopped working there in 2007, but I made a few of those early observations with Wes Swift, Bill Cooke, and others. A lot of the explanation on this video is from my public lecture on Space Environments. Which isn’t a surprise, Bill and Danielle assisted in the development of that lecture, so their words and mine are a bit similar on the subject.

Overall though, what is interesting here?
1) In space you can get hit with a boulder traveling a more than 40 kilometers per second. What is that like? A nuclear weapon going off. Less radioactive, but you’d be just as dead. More dangerous (because there are a lot of them) is a grain of sand at that speed. It would hit harder than a bullet. Remember mV^2 is the energy you get hit with. If you imagine a “normal” bullet travels at a velocity on the order of 1 kilometer per second – this is 40 times as fast. Square 40, you get 1600. Mass could be 1/1600 and you would “feel” the same energy of a hit. How much would the equivalent mass be to say… a 9MM bullet? about 6 mg. Six Milligrams. so… maybe a big grain of sand, about a millimeter across. Something that could get caught, painfully, under your fingernail could punch a hole in your spacesuit. Factually, as the grain of sand hit you, it would form an explosive plasma which would char out a chunk of your suit about a cm deep while punching you with the full force of the kinetic energy. Might be survivable, but … ouch.

2) A hit from a meteor forms a conductive plasma. If it hit any electrical equipment it’d zap it as well, ground it out at minimum. For example, if it hit your heart monitor, it could ground out that high-voltage capacitor through (heh) your heart on the way to your left foot ground plane. You have to watch your design for inadvertent currents that can kill you.

3) You can really only see these on the dark side of the moon. Luckily, there is a piece of dark side up almost every night. You can’t see (without a light enhancing telescope) the dark part of the moon, but it is still there. Sometimes people forget that the WHOLE MOON is overhead most nights, for all you only see a sliver of it. That dark part is Extremely dark, so little flashes of light show up pretty well. We were only using an 8 inch telescope, the 14’s are a big improvement.

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