Observers catch flash on Moon during eclipse

Clouds interfered with viewing of  Monday morning’s total eclipse of the Moon across much of the UK, but some northern areas and the south-eastern corner of England had clear skies.

A number of video recordings of the event have shown a very brief flash on the Moon near the crater Byrgius near Mare Humorum at 04:41 UT. Here’s a link to one such video, recorded in Morocco. Pay attention to the left-hand limb of the Moon about 10 seconds after this video starts, at 04:41:43 UTC or 1:20:47 on the video timeline. The flash looks at first sight like a video fault but it is recorded on several other videos. Any members with videos of suitable quality or indeed single images recorded at this time are urged to look at them. If you do detect a flash, please email us at Speculation is that the flash was caused by a meteor impact on the Moon.

Update 1 February 2019

An analysis of the impact has been carried out and it’s believed the body causing the impact was between 10 and 27 cm in diameter. It would have caused a crater only a matter of metres across, which would be impossible to detect from Earth’s surface, so don’t bother looking for it! The full story here:

[Note added 2 February: The above paper has been corrected, and the original version gave values approximately double those now shown.]

The 12th century observation referred to in the report was chronicled by a monk, Gervase of Canterbury, who reported that on 18 June 1178 the crescent Moon appeared ‘as a writhing snake’. One interpretation of this is that the appearance was caused by the impact of a large body, possibly causing the very recent farside crater Giordano Bruno, though others have challenged this suggestion.

Jamie Cooper in Daventry, Northants, found the flash on the 4-second exposure of the Moon.

Meteor flash on Moon

Here are some more of the photos we’ve received.
Steve Norrie, Drumoig, Fife

Eclipse sequence
Photos taken using Canon 600D camera with 250 mm telephoto lens. Exposure time for the totally eclipsed Moon was up to 3 seconds at ISO400

Paul Sutherland, Broadstairs, Kent

Eclipse sequence
Combination of shots taken at five-minute intervals using 12 mm Samyang lens on Fuji X-T10 camera, with exposures varied manually

Chris Cater, St Lawrence Bay, Essex.

Eclipse of Moon
Because the eclipsed Moon was not central within Earth’s shadow, there was a beautiful range of colours and shades across its surface, as shown in this photo taken by Chris Cater at 04:57


Mid-eclipse at 05:14 UT, photographed with a Nikon Coolpix p900 camera at 46 mm focal length, f/4.5, ISO 1600. The 1-second exposure allowed fainter stars to be seen than are usually visible at full Moon. Those at upper right and lower left are Mu and Zeta Cancri, magnitude 5.3. Click to enlarge


Lunar eclipse
Close-up view of the eclipse just before mid-eclipse, using a Nikon Coolpix P900 with a focal length of 125 mm. Photo: Chris Cater

Stuart Atkinson, Tan Hill near Kendal, Cumbria

Stargazers view eclipse
Stargazers brave the cold at Tan Hill, Cumbria to view the eclipse. What looks like a comet below the Moon is an internal lens reflection


Wide-angle view taken just before mid eclipse from Tan Hill in Cumbria by Stuart Atkinson. Click to enlarge. To upper left are the stars of Cancer, with the star cluster M44. To the upper right is Pollux in Gemini.


partial eclipse
A partial stage of the eclipse from Tan Hill. Photo by Stuart Atkinson

Nicole How, Driffield, Yorks


Eclipse photo
Taken at 05:37 with Nikon D7200 at prime focus on Takahashi Sky 90 scope. ½-second exposure at ISO 1000.
Eclipse photo
Another photo by Nicole, taken at 06:17 with 300 mm lens. 1/5 sec exposure at f/6.3. ISO 800

John Murrell, Carshalton, Surrey

Eclipsed Moon
This photo was taken at 05:08:08 just after the emergence of the mag 7.7 star SAO 67150 at the south-eastern limb of the Moon 

Robert Davies, near Aberystwyth

Eclipse montage
A tastefully arranged eclipse montage taken from Mid Wales. Robert comments: ‘What struck me was how dark the moon was at totality, much darker than any other I had seen.’

Visual reports

Nigel Joslin, Galloway: I used my 4″ refractor with a magnification of 20x, to see a beautiful eclipse. Come near-totality, the bottom third of the moon was a deep red with a lovely white edge to the remaining small crescent. And then a couple of small stars appeared in the field of view – fantastic, what a sight!

Mike Feist, Brighton: Exceedingly lucky with the weather, it was totally clear here in the land of the South Saxons! Cold and clear. Was able to observe from indoors, firstly from the downstairs window and then, when a large tree blocked the view, decamped to the upstairs room. The last part required going outside to the Park. Used 10×50 binoculars on a tripod and a handheld 8×36 Nikon binocular. Used the latter only when in the frosty Park. Made 16 sketches of the progress of the eclipse and took many photographs –have as yet not printed any of these – with camera alone. At totality thought it to be a rather dark eclipse, with some pinkishness here and there, any redness best visible in binoculars or even unaided edge. The eclipsed Moon was in line with Castor and Pollux and near M44 (The Praesepe) and near totality one could pick out the stars of this cluster. At that time I could also observe R Leonis, which was about as bright as 18 Leonis. The trip to the Park also produced a lovely view of Venus with Jupiter about half the field of view below, in the 8×36 binocular.

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