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 11:03 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Planetary nebula Abell 33 has taken on romantic proportions.
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 4:59 PM EDT, Wed March 26, 2014
Scientists have added another celestial body to the short list of objects in our solar system that have rings around them.
updated 1:59 PM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
Astronomers have discovered a dwarf planet that's even farther away than Pluto.
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.
updated 2:02 PM EST, Wed February 19, 2014
Cassiopeia A was a star more than eight times the mass of our sun before it exploded in the cataclysmic, fiery death astronomers call a supernova.
updated 5:07 PM EST, Mon February 10, 2014
Researchers have found clues that water could be flowing in the present, at least during warm seasons.
updated 11:02 AM EST, Sat February 15, 2014
The "jelly doughnut" rock that seemed to appear out of nowhere on Mars last month did not fall out of an extraterrestrial pastry box.
updated 10:56 PM EST, Thu February 6, 2014
It's a dot in the sky.
updated 2:44 AM EST, Thu February 13, 2014
Reports of Jade Rabbit's demise may have been premature.
updated 8:58 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
It's rare for astronomers to spot a planet in a star cluster. That's partly why a cluster called Messier 67 is so special: We now know that it has three planets orbiting stars.
updated 7:03 AM EST, Thu December 19, 2013
What do you need to map a billion stars? A billion-pixel camera certainly helps.
updated 2:50 PM EST, Tue December 10, 2013
NASA's rover Curiosity has now given scientists the strongest evidence to date that the environment on the Red Planet could have supported life billions of years ago.
updated 12:45 PM EST, Sat December 7, 2013
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has provided your multicolored space distraction of the day: images of a swirling, six-sided weather feature on the surface of Saturn.
updated 3:23 PM EST, Mon December 9, 2013
Imagine the delight at unwrapping your Christmas present in 2043 and discovering you've been gifted a trip around the Moon.
updated 5:06 PM EST, Tue December 10, 2013
A Dutch company says it is moving along with its plan to send four lucky Earthlings to colonize the Red Planet. The catch: They won't ever come back.
updated 12:11 PM EST, Tue November 19, 2013
You may have heard it before: billions of years ago Mars probably looked more like Earth does now, with clouds and oceans and a much thicker atmosphere.
updated 10:52 AM EST, Wed November 13, 2013
NASA has given the people of Earth a rare treat: A color mosaic that captures not only Saturn, but also the tiny dots of Earth and other planets in the background.
updated 12:39 PM EST, Tue November 5, 2013
Ever have one of those days where you just wanna be alone, maybe have the planet to yourself?
ADVERTISEMENT