Skip to main content

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.
HIDE CAPTION
Big moon moments
Big moon moments
Big moon moments
Big moon moments
Big moon moments
Big moon moments
Big moon moments
Big moon moments
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
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

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Space
updated 5:20 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Scientists believe that a hot gas bubble was formed by multiple supernovas.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robonaut is the next generation dexterous robot
Life aboard the International Space Station.
updated 9:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
NASA's New Horizons mission hurtles toward Pluto in historic 3 billion mile expedition.
updated 4:44 PM EDT, Wed August 6, 2014
Rosetta spacecraft arrives at its destination, Comet 67P after a 10-year journey around the solar system.
After a 10-year chase the Rosetta spacecraft is now orbiting a comet
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
"Here comes the sun" indeed, and it was just barely all right.
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Seems NASA's fascination with the moon is in the past. It's focused on something far more menacing: incoming asteroids
updated 11:56 PM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Scientists looking for signs of life in the universe -- as well as another planet like our own -- are a lot closer to their goal than people realize.
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
The U.S. Army brainchild "Project Horizon" was born. Its proposal to leap beyond the Soviets opened with the line: "There is a requirement for a manned military outpost on the moon."
updated 3:36 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Back in July 1969, I stood on the talcum-like lunar dust just a few feet from our home away from home, Eagle, the lunar module that transported Neil Armstrong and me to the bleak, crater-pocked moonscape.
updated 3:43 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
solar flare july 2014
From Earth, the sun appears as a constant circle of light, but when viewed in space a brilliant display of motion is revealed.
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
The full moons of this summer -- July 12, August 10 and September 9 -- are supermoons, as NASA calls them.
updated 11:51 AM EDT, Sun June 29, 2014
If you think you saw a flying saucer over Hawaii, you might not be crazy -- except what you saw didn't come from outer space, though that may be its ultimate destination.
updated 9:47 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
The U.S. space shuttle program retired in 2011, leaving American astronauts to hitchhike into orbit. But after three long years, NASA's successor is almost ready to make an entrance.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
When I first poked my head inside Virgin Galactic's newest spaceship, I felt a little like I was getting a front-row seat to space history.
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The sun is putting on a fireworks show again.
updated 7:02 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
A year is a very long time on Mars -- 687 days. NASA's Curiosity rover can attest that it's enough time for some unexpected life changes.
updated 2:00 PM EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
At least one corner of the solar system may be serving up an ice-and-water sandwich, with the possibility of life on the rocks.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
You can't see it happening on Earth, but space itself is stretching. Ever since the Big Bang happened 13.8 billion years ago, the universe has been getting bigger.
updated 7:59 AM EST, Fri February 28, 2014
Our galactic neighborhood just got a lot bigger. NASA announced the discovery of 715 new planets.
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Tue March 18, 2014
Scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding how our world as we know it came to be.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue February 25, 2014
From a sheep ranch in Western Australia comes the oldest slice of Earth we know.
ADVERTISEMENT