MYSTERIOUS flashes of light and other unexplained light phenomena on the moon are to be examined by space technology experts using AI.
While researchers have known about the lunar phenomena for decades, there is renewed focus due to the current “race to the moon” involving Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos, China and other players.
6 Prof Hakan Kayal, of Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Germany, with the new telescopeCredit: Julius Maximilians University
6 The unusual lights, as depicted above, ‘happen several times a week’, the expert saidCredit: NASA
6 There is always lightning and other mysterious light phenomena to see on the moonCredit: NASA
Hakan Kayal, professor of space technology at the Julius-Maximilians-Universitat (JMU) in Wurzburg, Germany, said that the unusual lights “happen several times a week”.
Sometimes it is only short flashes of light that appear on the surface of the moon, while other light phenomena on the earth satellite may be obvious for lengthier periods.
There are also spots that darken temporarily.
The university explains: “Science does not know how these phenomena occur on the moon [but] – the impact of a meteor, for example, should provide a brief flash.
“Such lightning could also occur when electrically-charged particles of the solar wind react with particles of lunar dust.”
Prof Kayal said that “seismic activity has also been observed on the moon. As the surface moves, gases may emanate from the interior of the moon, that reflect the sunlight.
“That would explain the luminous phenomena – which sometimes last for hours.”NEW TELESCOPE IN SPAIN
He’s interested in these “apparitions” as, “the so-called transient lunar phenomena have been known since the 1950s, but they have not been sufficiently systematically observed long-term.”
Transient refers to flashes lasting for only a fraction of a second, which means they’re hard to detect.
Prof Kayal is taking on the challenge of getting to the bottom of the strange lights, after his research team built a lunar telescope consisting of two cameras which keep an eye on the moon every night.
He said that it is located in a private observatory in a rural part of Spain, about 62 miles north of Seville, as the area has “better weather conditions for lunar observation” than in Germany.
Put into service in April this year, the telescope is remotely controlled from the JMU campus.
6 Put into service in Spain in April, the telescope is remotely controlled from the JMU campus
6 It saves photos and video sequences from the flashes of light, and sends a message to Prof Kayal’s team via email
Only when both cameras register a luminous phenomenon at the same time does the telescope trigger further actions.
It saves photos and video sequences from the flashes of light, and sends a message to Prof Kayal’s team via email.
Further planned tweaks of the set-up include using artificial intelligence methods, he said.
Neural networks – a computer system modelled on the human brain and nervous system – will make the system gradually learn to distinguish a lunar flash of technical interference from objects like birds and planes that fly in front of the cameras.
RACE TO THE MOON
Once completed, the system will later be used on a satellite mission.
For example, the cameras could work in orbit of the Earth or the moon, with the professor explaining, “we would then get rid of disturbances that result from the atmosphere.”
The space tech expert said there is great interest in the lunar light phenomena due to a new race to the moon.
China has launched a comprehensive lunar programme, and dropped off a probe on the far side of the moon in early January this year. India is planning a similar mission.
US President Donald Trump is keen for NASA to return astronauts to the moon, to eventually pave the way for human exploration of Mars.
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And in May, Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos said that he’s going to send a spaceship to the moon.
Bezos said his space company Blue Origin will land a robotic ship the size of a small house, capable of carrying four rovers.
He said: “It’s time to go back to the moon. This time, to stay.”
SpaceX last year announced plans to send a Japanese business around the moon in 2023.
6 Using a new telescope, a professor at the university in Würzburg, above, wants to get to the bottom of these light phenomenaCredit: Julius Maximilians University
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos unveils Blue Origin’s lunar lander called Blue Moon