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The Youngest Crater on the Moon - Windows to the Universe

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The Galileo spacecraft obtained this image of the crescent moon. The smallest features visible are 8 kilometers (5 miles) in size.
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NASA/JPL

The Youngest Crater on the Moon
News story originally written on December 30, 2002

Astronomers may have found the Moon’s youngest crater. Created in 1953, the crater is believed to be the only one formed in recorded history.

In 1953, a flash was seen on the Moon, probably from the impact of a small asteroid. Leon Stuart took a photograph of the flash that provides the only definite evidence of the impact.

Based on his 1953 photograph of the impact, scientists believe that the object that struck the Moon was probably about 300 meters across and its impact would have made a crater 1-2 km in size. If the object had struck the Earth instead of the Moon, the impact would have been so great that an area the size of a large city would have been destroyed.

At the time of the impact, our telescopes were not powerful enough to see the crater but now researchers examining images from orbiting spacecraft have found a small new crater in the same position as the flash. The images show a crater 2-km-wide, or about the size of New York’s Central Park, surrounded by a bright blue blanket of fresh lunar sub-soil at the exact location of the 1953 flash.

According to scientists, this new small crater may be one of many. They believe small craters may be formed on the Moon every few decades, but this is the first one to have been found.


Last modified February 24, 2003 by Lisa Gardiner.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF