The best way to capture brief space events is to look at the sky and be patient. Sometimes you get to see things you aren't expecting when you are focusing on something else. For example, if you were busy looking up at the Super Wolf Blood Moon lunar eclipse at the weekend you might have also caught a brief flash of a meteoroid hitting our natural satellite.
The event was truly a blink-and-you-miss-it event but luckily so many people were watching the eclipse and so many organizations were streaming it that not only it was caught almost immediately, we can now appreciate it even in gif format. The impact happened at 4:41:38 am GMT exactly, or 11:41:38 pm ET.
A potential impact was first suggested by Reddit user Ahecht, and since then both amateur and professional astronomers have been adding to the evidence that the flash of light was indeed something hitting the Moon rather than a local or terrestrial phenomenon. The Redditor checked webcasts from Morocco by timeanddate and footage from the Griffith Observatory live stream and both had the flash in roughly the same location.
“Could this have been a meteor impact on the moon?” Ahecht asked in their Reddit post. “The fact that it was visible from Morocco and California as well as my location in the Northeast United States would seem to rule out something like a straight-on meteor in the Earth's atmosphere (although I did see a shooting star right near the moon a bit before I saw the flash).”
The confirmation of the impact came this morning from the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS), a project developed by the University of Huelva and the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalucia. MIDAS uses three observatories to capture transient events happening on the surface of the Moon. We've previously shared the project's recording of two meteors hitting the Moon.
“I can confirm that the flash was produced by a meteoroid that hit the lunar ground. The event was recorded by several of our telescopes in the framework of MIDAS,” Dr Jose Maria Madiedo, from MIDAS, told IFLScience.
Monitoring these impacts is very important. By learning about what is hitting the lunar surface we can better understand the space environment around the Earth-Moon system. Plus it will be damn useful if we are planning to go back there to stay.