NASA scientists watching the moon saw an amazing sight two months ago: An 88 pound boulder slammed into our satellite, causing a visible explosion that was 10 times bigger than any they had ever seen before.
These kind of impacts aren’t rare — that’s how all of the moon’s craters have formed — but this was the biggest they’ve ever seen. The explosion on March 17 was the equivalent of five tons of TNT, and could have created a crater up over 60 feet wide.
Here’s what it looked like:
According to NASA you could even see it from Earth:
Anyone looking at the Moon at the moment of impact could have seen the explosion–no telescope required. For about one second, the impact site was glowing like a 4th magnitude star.
Ron Suggs, an analyst at the Marshall Space Flight centre, was the first to notice the impact in a digital video recorded by one of the monitoring program’s 14-inch telescopes. “It jumped right out at me, it was so bright,” he recalls.
The researchers think that the impact is related to a meteor shower seen over Ontario around the same time.
“My working hypothesis is that the two events are related, and that this constitutes a short duration cluster of material encountered by the Earth-Moon system,” Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office said in the press release.
Here’s a quick video of the impact:
While the boulder was only about one foot to a foot and a half wide, it was travelling about 56,000 miles per hour and because the moon has no atmosphere to slow these meteoroids down, the resulting impact is incredible.
The force of the meteoroid hitting the moon causes the rock to melt and release hot gasses, causing the glow.
See the ScienceAtNASA video below for more information:
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