NASA’s dedicated program which monitors and assesses all meteor and asteroid collisions with the Earth’s natural satellite, the Moon, has experienced its largest explosion caused by a meteor yet.
The monitoring team watched the astonishing moment when a space rock weighing a mere 88lbs smashed into the lunar surface at the incredible speed of 56,000mph. Despite the fact that the space rock was relatively small, it caused an immense amount of damage upon impact and the monitoring team estimate that the explosion caused the brightness of a magnitude 4 star.
LARGEST METEOR STRIKE EVER DETECTED ON THE MOON
One expert reported that this astonishing flash was ten times brighter than anything that the monitoring team had observed previously and that if anyone had been watching the moon at the time of impact that they would have been able to see the flash with the naked eye. Experts have explained that if a meteor of a similar size were to strike the Earth at a similar velocity, then it would create a crater approximately 65 feet deep. Rather terrifyingly, the kill zone created by such an impact is estimated to be the equivalent of ten Tomahawk cruise missiles striking simultaneously at the same spot.
This would lead to a death toll that would run in the thousands if the strike occurred in a populated zone. The Earth is protected by a strong atmosphere which means that most of the space debris that comes into the planet’s proximity is burned up before it can penetrate the world’s immediate atmosphere which means that it is safer from meteor impacts than the Moon. However, this does not mean that the Earth is immune from damage caused by meteors. Recently Chelyabinsk in Russia experienced a devastating episode when a 20-metre asteroid breached the atmosphere at 43,000 mph. The asteroid exploded in the air before impacting the Earth but still managed to cause a great deal of damage with more than 7000 buildings damaged and 1000 individuals requiring treatment for their injuries in hospital. In recent years, NASA has become less complacent about the possibility of asteroids striking the Earth and has entered the first design phase of a specialized spacecraft referred to as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) which will be used to divert potentially dangerous asteroids away from the Earth. The project, which is being carried out in conjunction with the European Space Agency (ESA) will soon be given its first test at diverting a non-dangerous asteroid away from the Earth.