We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Transient Lunar Phenomena (TLP)?

Michael Anissimov
By
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
All The Science is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All The Science, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Transient lunar phenomena (TLP), also known as transient lunar phenomenon, refers to sudden flashes of light; darkenings; green, blue, or violet colorations; reddish, pink, or orange colorations; and floating mists observed on the surface of the Moon. Reports of transient lunar phenomena go back over 1,000 years, but have only really been taken seriously since the early 1960s, when astronomers themselves began to view the phenomena and record it. At least 300 such events have been recorded by modern astronomers, with at least 2,200 reports in the historic literature. Over a third of all reliable incidents emanated from the Aristarchus plateau region on the Moon, on the northwest part of the near side.

References to transient lunar phenomena are scattered throughout the astronomy literature of the last 1,000 years. For instance, on 18 June 1178, five monks from Canterbury reported "a flaming torch" in the northern region of the Moon shortly after sunset, "spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals, and sparks." On 19 April 1787, British astronomer Sir William Herschel, discoverer of Uranus, noticed three red glowing spots in the dark part of the Moon, which he attributed to volcanism. Interesting is that around the same time, the aurora borealis were rippling above Padua, Italy — which practically never happens — less than a thousand miles away, and the sunspot cycle was at its most intense.

Transient lunar phenomena are hard to confirm and verify because they are, by nature, transient, with none recorded on film or video and usually only one witness. Scientists have come up with four possible explanations for transient lunar phenomena: impact events, outgassing, electrostatic phenomena, and unfavorable observation conditions or atmospheric effects. Due to the fact that transient lunar phenomena are so rare and distant, it is difficult to test these theories empirically.

Outgassing is something that occurs on practically every rocky body to some degree. Volatile gases, produced by radioactive decay or tidal heating, get trapped in cavities under the Moon's surface. They are then released slowly or in discrete explosions. This correlates well with one of the main sites where TLPs are observed — around floor-fractured craters, which would provide opportunities for sublunar gases to escape.

Impact events occur on the Moon all the time, mostly through micrometeorites. Impacts of slightly larger meteors might appear as flashes on Earth. Meteors of all sizes hit the Moon frequently.

Another possible source of TLPs are electrostatic discharges, caused by charges building up due to friction, solar wind, or other mechanisms. If the charge is large enough and over a big enough area, the eventual discharge may be large enough to observe from the Earth. This has not been confirmed, however.

The last cause of TLPs would be the most mundane — observational relics caused by the Earth's atmosphere. Atmospheric distortion can cause the Moon to appear hazy, especially with a telescope with high resolution.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov , Writer
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.

Discussion Comments

By ClubP — On Apr 19, 2011

The moon had a bit of a pink-ish hue to it the other night. I take it that was nothing to do with these phenomena though.

By anon167925 — On Apr 14, 2011

Very interesting article. Good balance of scientific info and general info. Loved it.

Michael Anissimov

Michael Anissimov

Writer

Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology...
Learn more
All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.