Scientists have launched a bid to observe and understand mysterious flashes of light on the surface of the moon. The ‘transient luminous lunar phenomena’ occur several times a week and illuminate parts of the moon’s landscape for a brief period of time before disappearing. Sometimes, a reverse effect which causes the lunar surface to darken has also been observed. Although there are several theories about the lunar mystery lights’ origins, they have not yet been fully explained. Now astronomers from Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany have set up a telescope which will use artificial intelligence to automatically detect the flashes. When a burst of light is spotted, the telescope will then collect video or photographs of the phenomena which will be studied to help scientists understand the flashes.
‘The so-called transient lunar phenomena have been known since the 1950s, but they have not been sufficiently systematically and long-term observed,’ said Hakan Kayal, professor of space technology. Kayal has a hypothesis about what’s causing the longer-lasting flashes and hopes to prove this theory. ‘Seismic activities were also observed on the moon,’ the professor added. ‘When the surface moves, gases that reflect sunlight could escape from the interior of the moon. This would explain the luminous phenomena, some of which last for hours.’ However, there is currently no explanation for the briefer flashes. ‘Science does not know exactly how these phenomena occur on the moon. But it has attempted to explain them: the impact of a meteor, for example, should cause a brief glow,’ the university said in a statement. ‘Such flashes could also occur when electrically charged particles of the solar wind react with moon dust.’