On the evening of 27th of May 2020, a team of the Planetology group of Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, detected a transient light on the night side of the lunar surface. The light phenomenon that had the extremely short duration of 0.2 seconds was caused by the impact of a meteoroid on the Moon. This is not only the first detection for the Flash! team but also is the first for France ! The telescopic observations took place at the site of Mont-Gros with a moderate telescope and a fast camera. Preliminary analysis has shown that the meteoroid did not originate from a known meteor stream but belonged to the so-called sporadic population and therefore it’s impact speed is estimated to be 19-24 km/s.
The project Flash! started in 2019 when the PI Dr. Avdellidou, a UCA-JEDI Research Fellow, formed a team of international students with scientific objective to detect lunar impact events and subsequently locate the fresh impact craters on the lunar surface. The team consists of Edhah Munaibari, a UCA MAUCA master student, Raven Larson master student and Prof. P. Hayne of the University of Colorado (USA) and Daniel Sheward PhD student and Dr. A. Cook of the University of Aberystwyth (UK). Important support to the team was offered by Dr. M. Delbo, directeur de recherche CNRS, laboratoire Lagrange (CNRS-UCA-OCA) and Dr. J. Vaubaillon (IMCCE).
The team has developed all the necessary computational tools to detect these rapid events inside a huge amount of data, to calculate the lunar coordinates of the impact event, to identify the source of the meteoroid (impactor), to measure the mass and size of the meteoroid and finally to discover the impact crater. The later is achieved in coordination with the international members of the team and the involvement of the NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The ultimate goal of Flash! is to create a global network for lunar impact monitoring !
While in the community lunar impact flashes are observed per se to count impactors in near-Earth space as a function of their sizes, the team's lunar observational studies are devoted to answer questions regarding the relationship between the size of impactors and the craters they form on planetary surfaces. Another crucial outcome is to understand the material influence, either from the impactor (meteoroids) or the target (the different lunar areas) on the observed temperatures of the ejecta plumes. The importance of project Flash! is that it started from the very beginning and is mainly based on the hard work of master and PhD students! Flash! is financially supported by the Programme National de Planetologie of INSU and by the Crédits Scientifiques Incitatifs (CSI) of Universite Nice Sophia Antipolis.