Watch a Meteorite Crashing Into the Moon!
That bright spot marks the death of a meteorite. The space rock, which weighed about 400 kg, a quarter of the mass of a small car, hit the lunar surface last September.
As the meteorite crashed into the lunar surface, it created enough heat to melt and then vaporize the surrounding rocks. This produced a bright glow visible from the twin telescopes of the MIDAS (Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System) project in Seville. The glow lasted for about 8 seconds, longer than any impact observed thus far. Based on their observations, scientists estimate the meteorite left a crater 40 meters wide and released as much energy as 15 tons of TNT.
On Earth, our atmosphere protects us from meteorites this small. But larger rocks can pose a real threat. By recording how often the moon takes a hit, scientists can estimate the rate of terrestrial impacts.
For more information on the impact and on MIDAS, check out this video:
[Via the Royal Astronomical Society, image courtesy of J. Madiedo / MIDAS]