Hundreds of meteoroid impacts on the moon, detected by NASA's lunar monitoring program, are pictured in this undated NASA handout photo. Credit: Reuters/NASA/Handout

(Reuters) – An automated telescope monitoring the moon has captured images of an 88-pound (40 kg) rock slamming into the lunar surface, creating a bright flash of light, NASA scientists said on Friday.

The explosion on March 17 was the biggest seen since NASA began watching the moon for meteoroid impacts about eight years ago. So far, more than 300 strikes have been recorded.

"It exploded in a flash nearly 10 times as bright as anything we've ever seen before," Bill Cooke, with NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said in a statement.

A NASA satellite orbiting the moon is now on a hunt for the newly formed crater, which scientists estimate could be as wide as 66 feet.

The flash was so bright that anyone looking at the moon at the moment of impact could have seen it without a telescope, NASA said.

After reviewing digital recordings made by one of the program's telescopes, scientists determined the space rock was about 1 foot in diameter, and traveling about 56,000 mph when it slammed into the moon and exploded with the force of five tons of TNT.

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