A boulder slammed into the moon on March 17, causing the biggest explosion on the celestial body NASA scientists have seen so far. The meteorite collided with the lunar surface at an incredible 56,000 mph.
In doing so, it created a new crater measuring 65 feet wide. The crash also sparked a bright flash of light that would have been visible to anyone looking at the moon with the naked eye at the time of the incident.
The collision was confirmed by NASA scientists on Friday. Bill Cooke of the agency’s Meteoroid Environment Office, stated:
“On March 17, 2013, an object about the size of a small boulder hit the lunar surface in Mare Imbrium. It exploded in a flash nearly 10 times as bright as anything we’ve ever seen before.”
NASA didn’t view the moon explosion in real time. Rather, it wasn’t until an analyst at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, reviewed a video of the meteorite impact recorded by one of the moon monitoring program’s 14-inch telescopes.
The analyst, Ron Suggs, recalled, “It jumped right out at me, it was so bright.” The rock is believed to have been about one foot wide and weighed about 88 pounds. The explosion is caused on the moon’s surface was about as powerful as five tons of TNT.
And the massive explosion on the moon may have not been the only incident that day. Cooke explained:
“On the night of March 17, NASA and University of Western Ontario all-sky cameras picked up an unusual number of deep-penetrating meteors right here on Earth. These fireballs were traveling along nearly identical orbits between Earth and the asteroid belt.”
Earth’s atmosphere protected it’s surface from being hit by the meteors. Unfortunately, the moon didn’t have the same kind of luck. Without an atmosphere, the moon is more susceptible to all incoming space rocks. The NASA monitoring program has reported more than 300 meteor strikes on the lunar surface since 2005.
Scientists hope to use NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to photograph the moon explosion site and learn more about how the meteorite crash happened.
[Image via ShutterStock]