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Flashes on the Moon Caused by Gas

Article written: 28 Jun , 2007
Updated: 26 Dec , 2015
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There’s a strange phenomenon on the Moon that has puzzled astronomers for hundreds of years. They’re called transient lunar phenomena (TLPs), and they look like a brief flashes, changes in colour, or blurring on the surface of the Moon.

Astronomers have argued about what’s really going on for years. Some possible explanations include turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere, physiological effects in the human eye, smearing of light, and even psychological causes. But according to new research by Columbia University astronomy professor Arlin Crotts, radon gas leaking out from the Moon is probably the best explanation.

Cotts correlated TLPs with known gas outbursts on the lunar surface as seen by several spacecraft, including NASA’s Apollo 15 mission. He found a surprising correlation between the outbursts detected by the spacecraft, and reports from observers of TLP sites.

The researchers are now building a robotic camera on the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in northern Chile. It will scan the moon every few seconds, and produce an unbiased map of TLPs.

Perhaps this will settle the mystery, once and for all.

Original Source:Columbia News Release


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