News Stories

Mysterious Moon Lights

There's a moon mystery that's been visible from Earth for500 years?and astronomers still haven't figured it out.

Mark Pilkington writes in The Guardian that in 1540, beforethe first telescope was invented, stargazers in the Germancity of Worms saw a star-like object appear on the moon. In1650, the Polish astronomer Hevelius noted the appearance ofa "red hill" in the north-western moon area, and in April1787, astronomer Sir William Herschel saw so many red lightsin this same crater that he thought he there must be avolcano on the moon. NASA has also recorded hundreds oflight flashes, glows, mists, unusual shapes and shadows, allin the same area. They are known as Transient LunarPhenomena (TLP)?but nobody knows what they are.

Some astronomers claim they're optical illusions generatedby telescopes. But in July, 1969, Apollo 11 entered lunarorbit and sent back images of a bright TLP. When he wasasked to check it out, Neil Armstrong saw an unusualillumination in the same crater.

But most astronomers don't think there are volcanoes on themoon. In 1963, Zdenek Kopal saw a significant TLP eventduring a major solar flare. He thinks particles thrown offby solar flares cause moon rocks to glow.

In 1992, Audouin Dollfus saw glowing clouds of moon dust,which was thrown up by emissions of underground gas. Thecrater on that part of the moon's surface is cracked, andradon gas was detected there during the Apollo missions.These "moon burps" could be the source of the mysteriousmoon lights.

Since we will probably eventually colonize the moon in orderto mine its valuable helium-3 fuel, we need to be prepared.

Linda Howe is Dreamland's expert onmysteriouslights.

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