Left in the dark by moon's new hue

The light side of the moon is getting darker, but nobody seems to know why. Whether it's due to volcanic activity or dust kicked up from lunar soil, pictures from America's probe Clementine confirm that a part of the moon is darker today than it was five years ago.

The light side of the moon is getting darker, but nobody seems to know why. Whether it's due to volcanic activity or dust kicked up from lunar soil, pictures from America's probe Clementine confirm that a part of the moon is darker today than it was five years ago.

Even more perplexing, the the reddening landscape - near a crater called Aristarchus - is the same spot that was observed in 1783 by William Herschel, one of history's greatest astronomers who two years earlier had discovered the planet Uranus.

Moon watchers have reported curious flashes and fleeting clouds for centuries. Such "transient lunar phenomena", or TLP, had intrigued astronomers, but they were never confirmed, despite investigation by Nasa.

One of the most notable TLP occurred on 23 April 1994, when about 100 amateur astronomers claimed to have witnessed a darkening of the moon lasting 40 minutes near the bright lunar crater Aristarchus. At that time, the Clementine spacecraft was mapping the lunar surface. Bonnie Buratti, of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has examined the Clementine data and confirmed the amateurs' thoughts. "After the [1994] event, it looks redder," she told New Scientist magazine.

Winifred Cameron, a retired astronomer formerly based at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona, thinks changes may be caused by gas eruptions stirring up dust. "I'm sure that changes are due to emanations of gas that is more dense than usual," he said.

Some scientists claim that the crater contains deposits of olivine, a mineral consisting of magnesium and iron silicate that is found in volcanic rocks. That could support theories that the surface changes are due to volcanic activity.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat