A Meteorite Smashed Into the Blood Moon During the Eclipse, and It Was Caught on Film

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Meteorite impact on the Moon during lunar eclipse. Jm Madiedo/YouTube

The lunar eclipse of January 2019 was already spectacular enough. It was classified as a rare "super blood wolf moon" eclipse; "super" because it occurred near its closest orbital pass to Earth, "blood" because it took on a reddish hue due to the refraction of sunlight around Earth's atmosphere, and "wolf" because that's the traditional name for the first full moon in the month of January.

But this eclectic title might not even be the most interesting thing about the eclipse. It just so happened that while everyone had their cameras diligently recording the lunar event, a piece of space debris — probably a meteoroid — slammed into the surface of the moon, and at the moment of impact it created a startling bright flash.

This was the first time scientists have recorded a lunar impact during an eclipse.

One of the highest profile recordings of the impact came from the University of Huelva's Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS) program in Spain. MIDAS scientist Jose Maria Madiedo had doubled the number of telescopes the program usually points at the Moon, just in case. His gamble paid off.

"I had a feeling, this time will be the time it will happen," he told New Scientist. "I was really, really happy when this happened."

You can watch the special moment yourself in the video at the top of the page. A graphic arrow makes the brief bright flash of the impact easy to spot.

Madiedo wasn't the only one to catch the impact on film, and as you might imagine, some wild speculation occurred on various forums throughout the internet before scientists officially revealed the source of the flash.

Although the flash could be seen around the world, the meteorite that caused it was likely pretty tiny. Scientists estimate that it was only about the size of a football. It's remarkable how powerful such small things can be when they collide at such high speeds.

"It reminds us that the solar system is still a very dynamic place,” said Robert Massey, from the Royal Astronomical Society.