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Astronomer Records Asteroid Smashing Into Moon

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Published on Feb 24, 2014

In the biggest lunar impact ever recorded, the fridge-sized rock weighing 400kg struck the moon before turning to vapour.

The rare episode was seen by Jose Maria Madiedo, a professor at the University of Huelva, on September 11 last year but details have only just been published by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).

Professor Madiedo was operating two telescopes when he spotted a flash just after 8pm.

The flash was so bright it would have been visible to the naked eye.

It was followed by an eight-second afterglow - the longest and brightest ever seen for a lunar impact.

"At that moment, I realised that I had seen a very rare and extraordinary event," Madiedo told the RAS.

The asteroid had a diameter of between 60 centimetres and 1.40 metres.

The intensity was so high the rock turned molten on impact and vaporised, causing the flash visible on Earth.

It was the equivalent to an explosion of 15 tons of TNT -- three times the previous record.

Professor Madiedo's team say similar rocks may strike Earth 10 times more frequently than was generally thought.

However, Earth is protected by its atmosphere, meaning asteroids of this size burn up.

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