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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

NASA Announces Brightest Lunar Explosion Ever Recorded

• newswatch.nationalgeographic.com, Andrew Fazekas
 

NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office is reporting the discovery of the brightest impact seen on the moon in the eight year history of the monitoring program.

Some 300 lunar impact events have been logged over the years but this latest impact, from March 17, is considered many orders of magnitude brighter than anything else observed.

“We have seen a couple of others in the ‘wow’ category but not this bright,” said Robert Suggs, manager of NASA’s Lunar Impact Monitoring Program at Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The blast lasted only about a single second and shone like a 4th magnitude star—making it bright enough to see with just the unaided eye.
 

The NASA monitoring program’s 14-inch telescope was the first to snag an image of the lunar explosion. Analyzing the images, researchers estimate that the object probably weighed in at 40 kg (88 pounds) and was about 0.4 meters (1.4 feet) wide. It crashed into the moon at speeds of 56,000 miles (90,000 km) per hour, releasing as much energy as five tons of TNT.

Scientists hope to corroborate the impact with close-up photography from a NASA spacecraft  orbiting the moon.

“They are planning to image that location in hopes of finding the crater which would be very significant scientifically,” Suggs said.

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