Friday, June 17, 2016

A longstanding Moon mystery is solved.

Dr. Leon Stuart was a physician in Tulsa, Okla., but his passion was stargazing. One night in November 1953, he was outside, toying around with a camera he had added to his telescope. By sheer chance, he captured what appeared to be a once-in-a-lifetime event: a photo of an explosion on the lunar surface.
"It looks like a bright star in the middle of the moon," says Bonnie Buratti, a NASA planetary researcher who studies the moon for fun.
Buratti says Stuart was convinced he had witnessed an asteroid crashing into the moon. He published his photo and his theory in a 1956 issue of The Strolling Astronomer, an amateur astronomy newsletter. But professional researchers dismissed Stuart's idea, suggesting that what he actually saw was just a meteoroid burning up in the Earth's atmosphere.
Stuart didn't change his mind. When he died in 1968, he was still convinced he had caught a lunar collision on camera. The incident was known as "Stuart's Event" in astronomy circles.
When Bonnie Buratti came across the photo decades later, she thought Stuart's idea of an asteroid crash was worth a second look.
Dr. Stuart's flashy asteroid impacting the moon.

According to Stuart's photo and description, the asteroid would have been the size of an 18-wheeler. Buratti then calculated the crater's location and how big it would be. She and a graduate student searched through thousands of images of the scarred lunar surface. Finally, they came across an image of a mile-wide crater snapped by Clementine, a NASA space probe that took 2 million photos of the moon in the mid-1990s.
Paul Lowman, a lunar geologist with NASA, has seen Buratti's study and agrees that Stuart was right — the doctor had indeed witnessed a major asteroid impact.
The arrow points to the spot where an 18 wheeler sized rock hit the moon at just the moment a sentient life form on the Earth was looking at that spot.  Good job, Dr. Stuart!

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