Space rock left big crater on moon during full lunar eclipse

FILE - This image from video provided by Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles shows an impact flash on the moon, bottom left, during the lunar eclipse which started on Sunday evening, Jan. 20, 2019. On Tuesday, April 30, 2019, scientists reported the meteoroid hit the moon at 38,000 mph (61,000 kph), carving out a crater nearly 50 miles (15 meters) across. It was the first impact flash ever observed during a lunar eclipse. (Griffith Observatory via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A space rock left a big crater on the moon during January's total lunar eclipse.

Spanish scientists reported Tuesday the meteoroid hit the moon at 38,000 mph (61,000 kph), carving out a crater nearly 50 feet (15 meters) across. It was the first impact flash observed during a lunar eclipse.

The scientists — who operate a lunar impact detection system using eight telescopes in Spain — believe the object was a comet fragment up to 2 feet (60 centimeters) across and 100 pounds (45 kilograms). The impact energy was equivalent to 1 ½ tons of TNT.

Astrophysicist Jose Maria Madiedo of the University of Huelva says it was "really exciting" to catch the brief flash, after many tries during eclipses.

The findings are in the Royal Astronomical Society's Monthly Notices.

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