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No. 129: MAY-JUN 2000

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TLPs One Fades, Others Flash

The TLP (Transient Lunar Phenomenon) reported in SF#127 involved a 40-minute darkening of an area near the lunar crater Aristarchus on April 23, 1994. The phenomenon was observed independently by some 100 amateur astronomers. The initial analysis of data returned at the same time by the lunar satellite Clementine at first seemed to confirm the amateurs' telescopic impressions. But after correcting the satellite data for lighting geometry and other effects, Clementine's vision of the TLP faded away like the Cheshire Cat. TLP doubters were well-satisfied.

(Anonymous; "Lunar Surface Change: A False Alarm," Sky & Telescope, 99:22, March 2000. Cr. D. Barbiero.)

Comment. Were the independent observations by 100-or-so geographically dispersed amateurs all hallucinations?

The TLP "myth" does not fade away so easily. On the night of November 17/18, 1999, the Leonid meteors pelted the earth's atmosphere and, as one would expect, the moon's surface. The moon's atmosphere, however, is almost non-existent so its share of the Leonid shower did not burn up before hitting the surface. But might not the high-velocity impacts with the surface create luminous phenomena? To find out, a team of observers monitored the dark side of the moon during the peak of the Leonid shower. Sure enough, at least six flashes were detected visually and on video tapes. They lasted only a fraction of a second and ranged in brightness from 3rd. to 7th. magnitude.

(Anonymous; "Leonid Meteors Strike the Moon," Astronomy, 28:29, March 2000.)

Comments. TLPs obviously do occur. But how was the energy of the impacting meteors converted into light flashes? A piezoelectric effect?

From Science Frontiers #129, MAY-JUNE 2000. 2000 William R. Corliss

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