Friday, December 30, 2005

Lunar Explosions are Big News--Again

In case you've been comatose, recently a 12-centimeter wide meteoroid, most likely a "Taurid", smashed into the lunar surface kicking up a small cloud of dust and debris visible to anyone looking through a telescope in the right place at the right time.

The story made every Space news outlet--from Blogger to CNN to Space.com--it was the biggest news all week.

Too bad it's not all that amazing. Or even noteworthy.

Amateur astronomers have been witnessing lunar strikes for years. During the Leonid meteor storms of 1999 and 2001 astronomers around the globe photographed nearly a half-dozen lunar strikes alone. In fact, imaging lunar strikes was so common people stopped doing it simply because nobody really cared anymore; they'd already seen it.

Of course interest in lunar activity has changed now that the most powerful nations in the world are planning permanent colonies there. The United States, China, European Union, Russia and Japan all have long-term plans for lunar bases. Everything from an international observatory to a mining operation are in the works, with big money riding on the outcome.

Understanding the nature of lunar impacts with meteoroids has ceased to become of interest only to astronomers, especially since one day the lunar surface is liable to be someone's backyard...

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