It is a bird. It is an airplane. Wait, it's a meteorite hitting the moon?
On Sunday, millions of people around the world watched as Earth's shadow covered the moon in a copper-red glow in a so-called "Super Blood Wolf Moon". It was the first full moon of the year (a Wolfmond) and it came at a time when the Moon was closest to Earth (a supermond) and went through a lunar eclipse (a blood moon).
However, when observing the eclipse, some observers noticed a small flash of lightning on the moon. Many astronomers speculate on what happened, but one of them, Jose Maria Madiedo from the University of Huelva in Spain, quickly confirmed that it was actually a meteorite that hit the moon.
"A stone hits the moon during the Total Solar Eclipse," tweeted Madiedo on January 22, 1945. Attached to his tweet was a YouTube link that showed the impact on the upper left half of the moon.
Madiedo observed the meteorite flash through the Spanish Moons Impacts Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS), run by the University of Huelva and the Institution of Astrophysics in Andalucia. The MIDAS project uses data from various astronomical observatories across the country to detect lightning on the lunar surface and gather information about the frequency of moonsheds, which can inform astronomers about the frequency of impacts in the Earth's atmosphere.
"We use a series of high-sensitivity telescopes that monitor the lunar surface to detect these events," Madiedo told ABC News.
Meteorite impacts occur again and again, Madiedo said, but it is not easy for MIDAS to record that the moon must be dark for the white flash to be visible – usually during the ten days around a new moon. He said that this influence of the moon was significant, as astrophysicists in this field of research first noticed an influence of the moon during a lunar eclipse.
The next lunar eclipse will be only a partial lunar eclipse visible from South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. It will take place on July 16, 2019.
As with any other meteor attack, this can happen anytime, but astronomers will most likely have to post videos and images.