NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office witnessed the most powerful meteor strike on the moon ever recorded since the program began eight years ago.
On March 17, a meteor travelling at 90,000 kilometres per hour struck the Moon resulting in an explosion equal to five tons of TNT.
“It exploded in a flash nearly 10 times as bright as anything we’ve ever seen before”, said Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. ‘‘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 fourth-magnitude star.’’
The meteoroid weighed 88-pound (40 kg) and was 0.3 to 0.4 metres wide. Scientists estimated that the impact crater could be as wide as 66 feet (20 meters).
The lunar meteor strike might not have been an isolated event, as a large number of meteors were observed in Earth’s skies on the same night.
“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,” Cooke added. “These fireballs were travelling along nearly identical orbits between Earth and the asteroid belt.”
“We’ll be keeping an eye out for signs of a repeat performance next year when the Earth-moon system passes through the same region of space,” says Cooke. “Meanwhile, our analysis of the March 17th event continues.”