Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Flashes on the Moon

31.05.2019

On the moon flashes and other enigmatic light phenomena can be observed again and again. With a new telescope, a professor at the University of Würzburg wants to get to the bottom of these phenomena.

It happens several times a week. Sometimes it is only short flashes of light that appear on the surface of the moon. Other light phenomena on the Earth's satellite can last longer. And sometimes there are also places that darken temporarily.


Professor Hakan Kayal next to the moon telescope.

Photo: Tobias Greiner


The observatory in Spain. The Würzburg moon telescope stands in one of the containers.

Picture: Hakan Kayal

Science does not know exactly how these phenomena occur on the moon. But it has attempts to explain them: the impact of a meteor, for example, should cause a brief glow. Such flashes could also occur when electrically charged particles of the solar wind react with moon dust.

"Seismic activities were also observed on the moon. 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," says Hakan Kayal, Professor of Space Technology at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany.

Moon telescope set up in Spain

Kayal is most interested in these appearances. "The so-called transient lunar phenomena have been known since the 1950s, but they have not been sufficiently systematically and long-term observed. This is currently changing, and the JMU professor wants to make his contribution.

As a first step, Kayal's team built a lunar telescope and put it into operation in April 2019. It is located in a private observatory in Spain, about 100 kilometres north of Seville in a rural area. Why Spain? "There are simply better weather conditions for observing the moon than in Germany," says Kayal.

The telescope is remote-controlled from the JMU campus. It consists of two cameras that keep an eye on the moon night after night. Only if both cameras register a luminous phenomenon at the same time, the telescope triggers further actions. It then stores photos and video sequences of the event and sends an e-mail message to Kayal's team.

Filing the intelligent software

The system is not yet completely finished – the software, which automatically and reliably detects flashes and other light phenomena, is being further refined. Kayal plans to use artificial intelligence methods, among other things: neuronal networks ensure that the system gradually learns to distinguish a moon flash from technical faults or from objects such as birds and airplanes passing in front of the camera. It is estimated that another year of work will be required before this can be done.

For Kayal, reducing the false alarm rate as much as possible is only the first milestone in this project. The system, which he is developing on Spanish soil, will later be used on a satellite mission. The cameras could then work in orbit around the earth or the moon. The professor hopes that this will lead to much better results: "We will then be rid of the disturbances caused by the atmosphere".

What happens once the telescope has documented a luminous phenomenon? Kayal's team would then compare the result with the European Space Agency ESA, which also observes the moon. "If the same thing was seen there, the event can be considered confirmed." If necessary, further joint research could then be initiated.

New race to the moon

Interest in the lunar luminous phenomena is currently high. This is also due to a new "race to the moon" that is underway: China has started a comprehensive lunar program and at the beginning of January 2019 launched a probe on the far side of the moon. India is planning a similar mission. As a reaction to these initiatives US President Donald Trump spoke in May of a return of the USA to the moon and announced that he wanted to lead NASA back "to its old size".

Behind all these activities are prestige reasons and a striving for technological “supremacy" in space. China and other players such as Space X, however, are also considering the moon as a habitat for humans in the long term. In addition, there are raw materials on the moon – for example, rare metals that are needed for smartphones and other devices.

"Anyone who wants to build a lunar base at some point must of course be familiar with the local conditions," says Professor Kayal. What if such plans should ever become concrete? By then at the latest, it should be clear what the mysterious flashes and luminous phenomena are all about.

Study programs at JMU

JMU students are also involved in the study of lunar phenomena. For example, they can write bachelor's or master's theses on the topic. At the University of Würzburg there is a Bachelor's programme in “Aviation and Space Computer Science”, taught in german. The Master's programme "Satellite Technology", which is taught in English, fits in well with this. In addition, you can choose to specialize in Aviation and Space Technology in the Master's programme in Computer Science.

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Prof. Dr. Hakan Kayal, Space Technology, University of Würzburg, T +49 931 31-86649, hakan.kayal@uni-wuerzburg.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www8.informatik.uni-wuerzburg.de/mitarbeiter/kayal0/ Website Prof. Hakan Kayal

https://www.uni-wuerzburg.de/satec/home/ JMU program Master’s in Satellite Technology

https://www.uni-wuerzburg.de/international/studieren-in-wuerzburg/studium-mit-ab... JMU degree programs in english language

Robert Emmerich | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Images from NJIT's big bear solar observatory peel away layers of a stellar mystery
18.11.2019 | New Jersey Institute of Technology

nachricht A one-way street for light
15.11.2019 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Images from NJIT's big bear solar observatory peel away layers of a stellar mystery

An international team of scientists, including three researchers from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), has shed new light on one of the central mysteries of solar physics: how energy from the Sun is transferred to the star's upper atmosphere, heating it to 1 million degrees Fahrenheit and higher in some regions, temperatures that are vastly hotter than the Sun's surface.

With new images from NJIT's Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), the researchers have revealed in groundbreaking, granular detail what appears to be a likely...

Im Focus: New opportunities in additive manufacturing presented

Fraunhofer IFAM Dresden demonstrates manufacturing of copper components

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM in Dresden has succeeded in using Selective Electron Beam Melting (SEBM) to...

Im Focus: New Pitt research finds carbon nanotubes show a love/hate relationship with water

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are valuable for a wide variety of applications. Made of graphene sheets rolled into tubes 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, CNTs have an exceptional strength-to-mass ratio and excellent thermal and electrical properties. These features make them ideal for a range of applications, including supercapacitors, interconnects, adhesives, particle trapping and structural color.

New research reveals even more potential for CNTs: as a coating, they can both repel and hold water in place, a useful property for applications like printing,...

Im Focus: Magnets for the second dimension

If you've ever tried to put several really strong, small cube magnets right next to each other on a magnetic board, you'll know that you just can't do it. What happens is that the magnets always arrange themselves in a column sticking out vertically from the magnetic board. Moreover, it's almost impossible to join several rows of these magnets together to form a flat surface. That's because magnets are dipolar. Equal poles repel each other, with the north pole of one magnet always attaching itself to the south pole of another and vice versa. This explains why they form a column with all the magnets aligned the same way.

Now, scientists at ETH Zurich have managed to create magnetic building blocks in the shape of cubes that - for the first time ever - can be joined together to...

Im Focus: A new quantum data classification protocol brings us nearer to a future 'quantum internet'

The algorithm represents a first step in the automated learning of quantum information networks

Quantum-based communication and computation technologies promise unprecedented applications, such as unconditionally secure communications, ultra-precise...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

First International Conference on Agrophotovoltaics in August 2020

15.11.2019 | Event News

Laser Symposium on Electromobility in Aachen: trends for the mobility revolution

15.11.2019 | Event News

High entropy alloys for hot turbines and tireless metal-forming presses

05.11.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Volcanoes under pressure

18.11.2019 | Earth Sciences

Scientists discover how the molecule-sorting station in our cells is formed and maintained

18.11.2019 | Life Sciences

Hot electrons harvested without tricks

18.11.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>