THE LUNAR TRANSIENT PHENOMENA PROGRAM
by David Darling (website: HTTP://www.ltpresearch.org)
always found it interesting to watch the tide come and go and observe the cycles
of nature, such as the passing of the seasons. These cycles seem to apply to
L.T.P. as well, when we go through a time period when the existence of the
phenomena is not well accepted by the scientific community. When talking about
lunar transient phenomena this subject periodically falls in and out of favor
with the scientific community. When it becomes an unpopular subject you see
condemning articles in different publications. If you read the article
published in Sky & Telescope magazine, September 1999: The Story Behind Lunar
Glows, Clouds, and Volcanoes. Page 118, you get the distinct feeling that L.T.P.
does not exist and if any one reports it, the authors are attributing it to poor
observational skills of the observer or the misinterpretation of what the
observer is really seeing. When reading this article they give strong logical
arguments concerning the credibility of the observations sited in the story. As
a casual reader who may not know anything about the phenomena I may be
convinced. But I have been there! I have over the last 20 years seen and
documented a few L.T.P. events myself. We then had the claim by Dr. Bonnie
Buratti of the J.P.L. that she had found two images taken by the Clementine
Spacecraft that showed changes on the lunar surface. This search of Clementine
images was done based on the ground-based observations done by the A.L.P.O.
Lunar Transient Phenomena Section. This report was published in The Strolling
Astronomer Journal of A.L.P.O. The Clementine Spacecraft A.L.P.O. LTP
Terrestrial Mission, August 1997. She made this claim at an astronomical
gathering and it got wide press in Sky & Telescopes Internet site. Several
months passed and a report was to be published in the March issue of Astronomy
magazine and instead she printed a retraction, in the Astronomy magazine Lunar
Activity doesn't pan out, March 2000 page 34.
We also have the disappointment with the Lunar Prospector mission and the failure of the Alpha Particle Spectrometer to perform as well as hoped. Instead the device was overwhelmed by solar activity, which overloaded the device making it ineffective. When I planned the participation with the last two lunar missions I concluded that this was a rare opportunity to monitor the Moon for this elusive phenomena and to attempt to get satellite confirmation. It appears that the torch has been passed back to the amateur astronomer once again to search for these phenomena, who once again must make the attempt to present to the scientific community the proof needed that this phenomenon is truly emanating from our Moon. It will remain the duty of the amateur astronomer to remain focused and disciplined to continue to provide quality observations that can pass the test of scientific scrutiny.
This ground based observing effort in conjunction with a space shot is not new. If one looks at the historical data the same effort was made during the Apollo missions. The program was called LION or Lunar International Observing Network. The record shows that a number of LTP reports were also witness by the Astronauts in the Apollo Command Module. They looked for the phenomena after ground-based observers activated the LTP Network or LION program. It was reported in the Smithsonian Institution Center For Short Lived Phenomena Annual Report 1969 dated 1 February 1970, that the Apollo 11 astronauts on 19 July 1969 reported the following: "At between 18:45 to 18:47 GMTthe Apollo 11 Astronauts (passing at -47 degrees longitude at the lunar equator on their first revolution after lunar orbit insertion, reported "an illuminated area.. .brighter than anything else we can see... on the west northwest.. .inner wall of (Aristarchus)". An independent message from Kaminsld (Institute of Space Research, Bo chum, Germany) reported that Pruss and "Witte observed a 5-7 second brightening in Aristarchus at 18:46 GMT."
Photograph by NASA. Apollo 15 in lunar orbit.
Needless to say that when I read a report like that it motivates me a great deal to continue to monitor the Moon for this phenomena. There will always be nay sayers telling you what you should be seeing in the universe around us based on their limited understanding of phenomena. If you think about it even the famed astronomers Galileo and Copernicus were told by others what they should be seeing. The critics did not want to be confused with facts. "Why I have gone into this discussion is to give the lunar observer food for thought, and not to become discouraged about pursuing this line of research. It is a grand adventure full of surprises and jewels for those who take on the challenge and persevere.
Now that you have decided to participate with the observing program, what is the next step? You will need to know where to look and what to look for. Also it's important to understand what the features you are studying look like under their normal lighting conditions. This means you need to become familiar with the lunar formation under all aspects of the lunation. Once you have completed this you can begin your observing program for LTP. There are a number of techniques that have been developed over the years by LTP researchers and I have attempted to gather this information into a single source document called the Lunar Transient Phenomena Observers Manual. The manual is available upon request by interested observers or can be accessed on my web page at: http://www.ltpresearch.org This manual will give you pointers on the different aspects of the observing program being pursued and give instructions on how to document or record and LTP event.
Once you look at the Moon all you see is thousand upon thousand
of craters. You are probably wondering, ""Where should I start". Well it has
been found that a select number of lunar formations have a history of repeat
events. This being the case it narrows the search down to twenty-seven locations
on the Moon that you can begin your search.
The lunar formations are as follows:
The information presented in this table represent data taken from Lunar Transient Phenomena Catalog July 1978, NSSDC/WDC-A-R&S 78-03. The catalog was published by National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC)/World Data Center A for Rockets and Satellites (WDC-A-R&S, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771. This catalog covers time periods from 500 AD to 28 May 1977, and was authored by Winifred S. Cameron.
"When watching the Moon for LTP there are several different approaches that can come to play. You are already aware of the one observing program, which is done in conjunction with a lunar mission. These are unique and rare opportunities and it may be some time before the United States send another mission to the Moon. I have read of plans to send spacecraft to the Moon by the European Space Agency, Republic of China and the Japan. If this comes to pass we will have another opportunity to make history.
The other kinds of observing programs that you can participate in are coordinated observing campaigns. This consist of simultaneous observations of specific lunar feature during a given observing window. These kinds of observations can be very exciting once the observer's reports are compared to see what every one saw.
The last kind of observation program is general monitoring of the Moon based on the observer's availability. This program can be very effective and is well tailored for the busy individual working full time, raising a family etc.
One question that always seems to come up is what kind of equipment do I need to participate. You will have a much higher success rate with the larger the aperture. I have found that increased aperture means increased contrast and so the faint details and illuminations are more easily detected. This also hold true when doing any kind of planetary work, if you have a small telescope there are many subtle details that you are not able to resolve. One example that remains vivid in my memory took place some years back when my friend David Weier and myself could both see a faint illumination inside the crater Aristarchus. I called a fellow observer, Robert Manske, and he could not make out the illumination inside the crater. The difference was we were using a 12-½ f5 Newtonian reflector and Robert was using a SCT C8. The smaller telescope is an excellent telescope in itself but could not give the needed contrast to reveal the illumination inside the crater Aristarchus. I do not want to discourage the observer whose only access is to a small telescope because good work can be accomplished with them as well. I just mention all this to help the observer guard against being over enthusiastic and become disappointed that they were not successful in seeing anything. It takes time, patience and perseverance to be successful as well as training your eye and mind to interpret the lunar surface ever changing details. It is also important to remember that the observer does not need to have latest technology available to them. I am glad to get observers on board with CCD or video capability and who are skilled in the art of lunar photography but I am also glad to get the observer who just uses their eyes. Believe it or not the eye cannot be surpassed by any imaging device to date for detecting subtle and faint details on lunar and planetary surfaces. You will find that once your eye has been trained to lunar observing your ability to detect these LTP events will be greatly enhanced.
If you feel this program is for you contact me at my email address DOD121252@aol.com or drop me line.
David O. Darling
416 W. Wilson Street
Sun Prairie, Wisconsin 53590
United States of America
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