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Lunar Impact Flash Locations from NASA's Lunar Impact Monitoring ProgramMeteoroids are small, natural bodies traveling through space, fragments from comets, asteroids, and impact debris from planets. Unlike the Earth, which has an atmosphere that slows, ablates, and disintegrates most meteoroids before they reach the ground, the Moon has little-to-no atmosphere to prevent meteoroids from impacting the lunar surface. Upon impact, the meteoroid's kinetic energy is partitioned into crater excavation, seismic wave production, and the generation of a debris plume. A flash of light associated with the plume is detectable by instruments on Earth. Following the initial observation of a probable Taurid impact flash on the Moon in November 2005,1 the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office (MEO) began a routine monitoring program to observe the Moon for meteoroid impact flashes in early 2006, resulting in the observation of over 330 impacts to date. The main objective of the MEO is to characterize the meteoroid environment for application to spacecraft engineering and operations. The Lunar Impact Monitoring Program provides information about the meteoroid flux in near-Earth space in a size range-tens of grams to a few kilograms-difficult to measure with statistical significance by other means. A bright impact flash detected by the program in March 2013 brought into focus the importance of determining the impact flash location. Prior to this time, the location was estimated to the nearest half-degree by visually comparing the impact imagery to maps of the Moon. Better accuracy was not needed because meteoroid flux calculations did not require high-accuracy impact locations. But such a bright event was thought to have produced a fresh crater detectable from lunar orbit by the NASA spacecraft Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The idea of linking the observation of an impact flash with its crater was an appealing one, as it would validate NASA photometric calculations and crater scaling laws developed from hypervelocity gun testing. This idea was dependent upon LRO finding a fresh impact crater associated with one of the impact flashes recorded by Earth-based instruments, either the bright event of March 2013 or any other in the database of impact observations. To find the crater, LRO needed an accurate area to search. This Technical Memorandum (TM) describes the geolocation technique developed to accurately determine the impact flash location, and by association, the location of the crater, thought to lie directly beneath the brightest portion of the flash. The workflow and software tools used to geolocate the impact flashes are described in detail, along with sources of error and uncertainty and a case study applying the workflow to the bright impact flash in March 2013. Following the successful geolocation of the March 2013 flash, the technique was applied to all impact flashes detected by the MEO between November 7, 2005, and January 3, 2014.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Marshall Space Flight Center
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
Moser, D. E.
(Jacobs Engineering and Science Services and Skills Augmentation Group (ESSSA) Huntsville, AL, United States)
Suggs, R. M.
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Kupferschmidt, L.
(California State Polytechnic Univ. Pomona, CA, United States)
Feldman, J.
(Colorado Coll. Colorado Springs, CO, United States)
Date Acquired
November 19, 2015
Publication Date
September 1, 2015
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Science And Exploration
Report/Patent Number
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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