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The impact of a 100 pound meteorite on the Moon in March produced the brightest flash ever recorded.
Anyone looking at the Moon at the moment of impact could have seen the explosion–no telescope required. For about one second, the impact site was glowing like a 4th magnitude star.
Ron Suggs, an analyst at the Marshall Space Flight Center, was the first to notice the impact in a digital video recorded by one of the monitoring program’s 14-inch telescopes. “It jumped right out at me, it was so bright,” he recalls.
The 40 kg meteoroid measuring 0.3 to 0.4 meters wide hit the Moon traveling 56,000 mph. The resulting explosion1 packed as much punch as 5 tons of TNT.
It will be really interesting to see the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images of the impact site, which can’t be taken until the spacecraft passes over the site and can photograph it.