Moon nailed by car-sized asteroid

The lunar impact was the largest ever recorded.
By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 25, 2014 at 4:47 PM   |   Comments

| License Photo
SEVILLE, Spain, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Last fall, an asteroid weighing nearly 1,000 pounds and traveling 38,000 mph smacked into the surface of the moon, creating a flash of light as bright as the sun and leaving a giant crater.

The moon's surface is littered with the craters left by space rock collisions, but this particular impact was the largest ever recorded.

Spanish astronomer Jose Maria Madiedo, a professor at the University of Huelva in Spain, first noticed the event while viewing footage from the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System -- two giant telescopes in Seville that monitor the moon's surface. He quickly noticed the bright flash of light and knew something unique had happened.

"I immediately realized that I had the opportunity to witness an extraordinary event taking place on the moon," Madiedo told Mashable. "I felt very lucky for that."

The visual evidence of most lunar impacts last only a split second, but the light of this collision lingered a bit longer.

"The impact we detected lasted over eight seconds," Madiedo told BBC News. "It was almost as bright as the Pole Star, which makes it the brightest impact event that we have recorded from Earth."

Without much of an atmosphere to protect it, the moon is routinely peppered with asteroids. A rock this size would quickly burn up upon entering Earth's dense atmosphere. The fiery friction of such rocks -- which most Americans called "shooting stars" -- can be witnessed during meteor showers.

[BBC News]

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