'G-WIZ like' object doing 40,000 MPH CRASHES on the MOON
Blast as bright as a star, from impact as heavy as a (very) reasonably priced car
Vid An unidentified object roughly the size of a G-Wiz car smashed into the Moon last September going at 61,000km/h, causing a devastating, record-breaking explosion clearly visible to the naked eye, astronomers say.
The Royal Astronomical Society sets the scene:
On 11 September 2013, Prof Jose M Madiedo was operating two telescopes in the south of Spain that were searching for [lunar] impact events. At 2007 GMT he witnessed an unusually long and bright flash in Mare Nubium, an ancient lava-filled basin with a darker appearance than its surroundings.
“At that moment I realised that I had seen a very rare and extraordinary event," recalls the gobsmacked prof.
Having crunched the numbers, Madiedo and his colleagues have determined that what he saw was an object massing about 400kg (which the RAS describes as "the mass of a small car"*) crashing into the lunar surface at a tad more than 60,000km/h (a bit less than 40,000 mph). This caused an explosion equivalent to the detonation of 15 tonnes of TNT, handily breaking the previous record for moon explosions set last May.
Prof Madiedo and his colleague Dr Jose Ortiz say that the mighty lunar blast was briefly as bright as the Pole Star itself, and could easily have been spotted without benefit of telescope by anyone who happened to be looking at the Moon at the time.
Reassuringly, the RAS adds:
One of the conclusions of the Spanish team is that these one metre sized objects may strike our planet about ten times as often as scientist previously thought. Fortunately, the Earth’s atmosphere shields us from rocks as small as the one that hit Mare Nubium, but they can lead to spectacular ‘fireball’ meteors.
The full announcement with details of the associated scholarly paper just out can be read here. ®
*Even the smallest pukka cars weigh a good deal more than this, but various vehicles technically classed not as cars but quadricycles - for instance the well-known G-Wiz electrobuggy - are in this weight class.