Astronomer spots asteroid smashing into Moon

Last Updated: Monday, February 24, 2014 - 22:39

Zee Media Bureau

Paris: Jose Maria Madiedo, a Spanish astronomer today said that he witnessed a fridge-sized asteroid smash into the Moon, in the biggest lunar impact by a space rock ever recorded.

Jose witnessed this rare phenomenon last year on September 11 when he was operating two lunar-observing telescopes. In that process he spotted a flash in the Mare Nubium, an ancient, dark lava-filled basin.

The flare was briefly almost as bright as the northern hemisphere`s Pole Star, the Royal Astronomical Society(RAS) reported. RAS further said that it would have been visible to the naked eye to anyone who happened to be looking at the Moon at that moment in good viewing conditions.
"At that moment, I realised that I had seen a very rare and extraordinary event," Madiedo told the society.

After calculations, Madiedo and colleagues found out that the rock had a mass of around 400 kilos, with a diameter of between 60 centimetres and 1.40 metres.

It hit Mare Nubium at around 61,000 kilometres per hour. The speed was so high that the rock turned molten on impact and vaporised, leaving a thermal glow visible from Earth as a flash, and bequeathing a 40-metre crater in the Moon`s pocked surface.
The impact energy was equivalent to an explosion of around 15 tonnes of TNT, more than triple the largest previously seen event, claimed by NASA in March 2013.

Madiedo`s team calculated that rocks of this size may strike Earth about 10 times more frequently than was generally thought.

With Agency Inputs

First Published: Monday, February 24, 2014 - 22:32

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