Asteroid seen smashing into the moon during super blood wolf moon eclipse

The moment of impact.
The moment of impact. Photo credit: Clifton Kern/YouTube.

It turns out the super blood wolf moon eclipse was a little bit special after all.

For what's believed to be the very first time, astronomers have witnessed an asteroid crashing into the moon during Monday night's eclipse.

The strike happened just as 'totality' was getting underway - when the moon is fully within the Earth's shadow, and takes on a ghostly dark red colour.

When eagle-eyed skywatchers took to social media to say they'd spotted a brief flash of light during the eclipse, at first astronomers were sceptical.

"I was wondering if it was maybe a local effect, or maybe something with the camera," University of Toronto planetary scientist Sara Mazrouei told National Geographic.

But as more pictures of the event were uploaded, it soon became clear it was real.

"They all seem to see the same bright pixel," said Prof Mazrouei. "This confluence points strongly toward the flash of light actually being an impact."

The impact happened at about 5:41pm NZ time, when the moon - from our perspective - was still below the horizon.

A few asteroids strike the moon every a week, but they're hard to spot because the moon is so bright.

The flash was recorded by the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System at Spain's University of Huelva.

"This is the first time in the history of astronomy that a lunar impact flash [was] recorded during a lunar eclipse," Huelva astronomer Jose Madiedo told NBC.

His team had set up eight telescopes pointed right at the moon just in case something like this happened.

"I was very surprised when the software that scans the images to locate these events notified me that we had an impact," he told NBC, "but I was also really happy and excited to see that, at the end, the effort was rewarded."

Despite its size, the moon is hit by more asteroids than Earth because it doesn't have an atmosphere to burn them up.

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