A brief flash of light during January’s total lunar eclipse marked the spot where a rock crashed into the surface at some 61,000 kph (38,000 mph). Image: J. M. Madiedo/MIDAS
A rock that slammed into the moon during a widely viewed total lunar eclipse in January likely hit the surface at some 61,000 kilometres per hour (38,000 mph), releasing the energy of 1.5 tonnes of TNT and blasting out a crater 10 to 15 metres (33 to 49 feet) across, astronomers report in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Based on a detailed analysis of the brilliant, short-lived – 0.28 second – burst of light that accompanied the impact, the astronomers concluded the rock had a mass of about 45 kilograms (100 pounds) and measured 30 to 60 centimetres (12 to 24 inches) across. Debris ejected by the impact likely reached a peak temperature of around 5,400 degrees Celsius (9,750 Fahrenheit).
The eclipse occurred on 21 January and was visible across western Europe and North and South American. At 4:41 GMT, just after totality began, many observers noted a brief flash on the moon’s darkened surface.
Jose Madiedo of the University of Huelva and Jose L. Ortiz of the ...