It’s Been 5 Years Since the Brightest Meteor-Lunar Collision!

On 17 March 2013, when the meteor hit the moon, for a second the the explosion could be seen from the Earth.

Updated
India
3 min read
As the meteor collided with the moon on 17 March 2013, the site of impact glowed.  
i

Did you know that five years ago, an object, about the size of a boulder, hit the moon and the damage done was colossal. And it is said that if a similar strike would have happened against the Earth then it would have created a 65-feet-deep crater on the surface of the planet and the death toll would’ve run into thousands had the impact occurred in a populated area.

On the night of 17 March 2013, a meteor hit the moon and the NASA scientists who had been monitoring the Moon since 2005 for signs of explosion called it the biggest explosion since they had started their observation.

The craters which  formed on the surface of the moon after the 17 March collision. 
The craters which formed on the surface of the moon after the 17 March collision. 
(Photo Courtesy: NASA)

They said anyone looking at the moon at the time of impact could have seen this explosion with a naked eye, as the site of impact was shining nearly 10 times brighter than anything ever seen, for nearly a second.

The site of explosion was shining so brightly that anyone looking at the sky at the time of collision would have noticed it. 
The site of explosion was shining so brightly that anyone looking at the sky at the time of collision would have noticed it. 
(Photo Courtesy: Screengrab/ NASA)

But what the sky cameras also picked up on the same night was – an unusual number of deep-penetrating meteors on Earth. “These fireballs were traveling along nearly identical orbits between Earth and the asteroid belt,” Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office said.

NASA’s Lunar Monitoring Program has detected hundreds of meteoroids impact the moon. The brightest that was detected on 17 March 2013 is marked in red.  
NASA’s Lunar Monitoring Program has detected hundreds of meteoroids impact the moon. The brightest that was detected on 17 March 2013 is marked in red.  
(Photo: NASA)

How is it Relevant?

Here’s the thing – this means the Earth and the moon were pelted by meteoroids at the same time.

But unlike the moon, Earth has a protective atmosphere, which can burn the most of the space debris before it can impact. However, sometimes bigger meteors get through – like the 20 metre asteroid that hit the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013 injuring over 1,200 people.

One of the main goals of the 2005 Lunar Monitoring Program is to identify the debris that poses a threat to Earth-Moon system and the 2013 phenomena helps scientists identify the same.

An artist’s conception of the 17 March lunar impact. 
An artist’s conception of the 17 March lunar impact. 
(Photo: NASA)

How Does it Affect Future Research?

Eventually, the US Space Exploration Policy calls for longer astronaut stays on the surface of the moon. Measuring the impact of lunar meteor helps the scientists to know what to expect in the future and if the specific time period is safe for a moonwalk?

It also helps to identify the debris that poses a threat to the Earth-Moon system.

(With inputs from NASA, Express, and Space.com)

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

Published: 
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!