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No. 109: Jan-Feb 1997

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Lunar Landslide Lights

Moonwatchers have reported light flashes, strange red glows, and mist-like patches emanating from certain lunar locales, particularly the huge craters Alphonso and Picard. Hundreds of such observations have accumulated since the Middle Ages. Modern more-systematic scrutiny indeed confirms that the moon is not such a dead place after all. (See ALF in The Moon and the Planets for much more on this fascinating subject.)

Moonquakes, gaseous emissions, and even volcanic activity have been the favorite explanations of these TLPs (Transient Lunar Phenomena), but these are only surmises.

The many close-up photos of the lunar surface taken in 1994 by the lunar satellite Clementine gave B. Buratti, K. Herkenhoff, and T. McConnochie the opportunity to search for geological common denominators connecting the sites where TLPs have been most frequent. The suspicious sites are characterized by bluish spectra that usually indicate unusually fresh deposits of lunar debris. Furthermore, these areas are usually found along the inside edges of large craters. Buratti et al opine that these are the sites of recent landslides that have cascaded off the crater edges. The dust and volatile gases released by these events might account for the observed luminous phenomena.

(Cowen, Ron; "Explaining a Lunar Mystery," Science News, 150:314, 1996.)

Reference. To order the book The Moon and the Planets (mentioned above), visit here.

Lunar crater Gassendi and red glow observed The lunar crater Gassendi on April 30 and May 1, 1966. The shaded areas mark the red glow observed on those dates by astronomers.

From Science Frontiers #109, JAN-FEB 1997. 1997-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987