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Bright explosion on moon visible from Earth, NASA says

NASA says an object about the size of a small boulder hit the Moon in Mare Imbrium on March 17, creating an explosion bright enough to be seen on Earth. "It exploded in a flash nearly 10 times as bright as anything we've ever seen before," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. NASA says an object about the size of a small boulder hit the Moon in Mare Imbrium on March 17, creating an explosion bright enough to be seen on Earth. "It exploded in a flash nearly 10 times as bright as anything we've ever seen before," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The explosion was caused by a meteoroid that hit the lunar surface
  • It was visible on Earth without a telescope
  • NASA sees hundreds of lunar meteoroid impacts on the moon each year
  • The meteoroid was traveling 56,000 mph when it banged into the moon

(CNN) -- A meteoroid struck the surface of the moon recently, causing an explosion that was visible on Earth without the aid of a telescope, NASA reported Friday. But don't be alarmed if you didn't see it; it only lasted about a second.

"It exploded in a flash nearly 10 times as bright as anything we've ever seen before," said Bill Cooke, of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.

NASA astronomers have been monitoring the moon for the past eight years, looking for explosions caused by meteoroids hitting the lunar surface. It's part of a program to find new fields of space debris that could hit Earth. NASA says it sees hundreds of detectable lunar meteoroid impacts a year.

Meteor lights up East Coast and social media

None however can match the size of the explosion they say they saw March 17. NASA says the meteoroid was about 40 kilograms and less than a meter wide, and it hit the moon's surface at 56,000 mph. It glowed like a 4th magnitude star, NASA says, thanks to an explosion equivalent to 5 tons of TNT.

Moon blast equal to 5 tons of TNT

"It jumped right out at me, it was so bright," said Ron Suggs of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Cooke says Earth was pelted by meteoroids at about the same time, but they hit the moon because it has no atmosphere to protect it.

Opinion: Meteor shows why it's crucial to keep an eye on the sky

"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," Cooke said.

If you're wondering how there can be an explosion on the moon, without oxygen, NASA has the answer for you. It says the flash of light comes not from any type of combustion -- as we typically think of explosions -- but rather by the glowing molten rock at the impact site.

Read more space news on CNN Light Years

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