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The moon has been shaking for 800 years

Posted in Historical articles, Science, Space on Monday, 28 November 2011

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This edited article about space originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 863 published on  29 July 1978.

Photographing the moon, picture, image, illustration

A spacecraft taking pictures of the moon by Wilf Hardy

Space scientists have recently discovered that the moon is shaking. This is the result of a collision 800 years ago.

On 20th June, 1178, a monk, Gervase of Canterbury, saw the collision. The impact from a meteor at least 40 kilometres across was so great that Gervase thought the moon had split in two.

From the centre of the split came forth a “flaming torch” emitting “fire, hot coals, and sparks.”

According to modern astronomers what the monk saw was the shadow of an immense cloud of moon-dust and rubble.

Scientists reasoned that as a result of this impact there should be a crater some twenty kilometres wide. When an orbiting space-craft was photographing the area for possible landing-places a crater, which could be the one in question, was discovered.

It has been called Giordano Bruno after a 16th century philospher.

The moon is still shaking from the impact, but you will not be able to see the movement yourself.

You will need laser equipment for that as the movement affects only about 45 metres of the moon’s surface and it takes three years to complete each shake.

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