Full Moon by Gregory H. Revera / CC BY-SA 3.0

During the Last Lunar Eclipse, a Meteor Smacked the Moon in the Face at 38,000 Mph

May 1, 2019

By Brandon Specktor

On January 21, 2019, the full moon passed entirely into Earth’s shadow and, well, got smacked in the face pretty hard.

Seconds after the total phase of that night’s lunar eclipse began, a meteorite slammed into the moon’s surface, causing a brief but bright flash of light visible to amateur astronomers across the Northern Hemisphere. Professional astronomers were watching too — and now, after months of studying impact footage taken by a fleet of eight telescopes in southern Spain, a team of researchers thinks they know just how hard the moon got smacked, and what did the smacking.

According to a new study published April 30 in the journal Monthly Notice of the Royal Astronomical Society, the object that hit the moon on January 21 was likely a rogue meteoroid measuring just 1 to 2 feet in diameter (30 to 60 centimeters) and traveling at a staggering 38,000 mph (61,000 km/h). This wee, speedy rock likely created a fresh lunar crater measuring some 50 feet (15 meters) across.

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