Detection of sporadic impact flashes on the Moon: Implications for the luminous efficiency of hypervelocity impacts and derived terrestrial impact rates

Ortiz, J. L.; Aceituno, F. J.; Quesada, J. A.; Aceituno, J.; Fernández, M.; Santos-Sanz, P.; Trigo-Rodríguez, J. M.; Llorca, J.; Martín-Torres, F. J.; Montañés-Rodríguez, P.; Pallé, E.
Icarus, Volume 184, Issue 2, p. 319-326.


We present the first redundant detection of sporadic impact flashes on the Moon from a systematic survey performed between 2001 and 2004. Our wide-field lunar monitoring allows us to estimate the impact rate of large meteoroids on the Moon as a function of the luminous energy received on Earth. It also shows that some historical well-documented mysterious lunar events fit in a clear impact context. Using these data and traditional values of the luminous efficiency for this kind of event we obtain that the impact rate on Earth of large meteoroids (0.1 10 m) would be at least one order of magnitude larger than currently thought. This discrepancy indicates that the luminous efficiency of the hypervelocity impacts is higher than 10-2, much larger than the common belief, or the latest impact fluxes are somewhat too low, or, most likely, a combination of both. Our nominal analysis implies that on Earth, collisions of bodies with masses larger than 1 kg can be as frequent as 80,000 per year and blasts larger than 15-kton could be as frequent as one per year, but this is highly dependent on the exact choice of the luminous efficiency value. As a direct application of our results, we expect that the impact flash of the SMART-1 spacecraft should be detectable from Earth with medium-sized telescopes.