(Pictured: Artist Concept – Largest Meteoroid Ever Recorded Strikes Moon)
For the past eight years NASA astronomers have been monitoring the moon for signs of explosions caused by meteoroids hitting the lunar surface.
Lunar meteor showers have turned out to be more common than anyone expected with hundreds of detectable impactsÂ occurringÂ every year.
They’ve just seen the biggest explosion in the history of the program. “On March 17, 2013 an object about the size of a small boulder hit the lunar surface in Mare Imbrium,” says Bill Cook of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.
It exploded in a flash nearly ten times as bright as anything we’ve ever seen before.
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 start.
The 40 kilogram meteoroid measuring .3 to .4 meters wide hit the moon traveling at 56,000 miles per hour. The resulting explosion packed as Â much punch as five tons of TNT.
Cook believes the lunar impact might have been part of a much larger event.
“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,” he says.
These fireballs were travelling along nearly identical orbits between the earth and the asteroid belt.