Washington, May 21 (RIA Novosti) NASA cameras have captured video of the largest explosion it has ever seen on the moon, when a meteorite crashed into the lunar surface in a bright burst of light visible to the naked eye.
‘On March 17, 2013, an object about the size of a small boulder hit the lunar surface,’ said Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, in a statement.
‘It exploded in a flash nearly 10 times as bright as anything we’ve ever seen before.’
For the past eight years NASA astronomers have been monitoring the moon for signs of meteoroids crashing into the moon’s surface and the space agency’s lunar impact team has detected more than 300 strikes.
Ron Suggs, an analyst at the Marshall Space Flight Centre, was the first to notice the massive March 17 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,’ said Suggs in a statement on the science.nasa.gov website.
‘For about one second, the impact site was glowing like a fourth magnitude star,’ NASA said.
The meteoroid was traveling around 56,000 miles per hour when it slammed into the moon’s surface. It weighed around 88 pounds and measured about one foot in diametre, according to NASA.
The meteorite which fell in Russia’s Chelyabinsk region in February, injuring more than 1,000 people, measured 55 feet across.
The Earth’s atmosphere protects the planet, as space debris usually burns up before reaching the surface. The moon has no such protective layer.
The impact on the moon could have created a crater as wide as 66 feet, and NASA says its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will be on the lookout for it the next time it passes over the site.