On June 18, 1178, five monks in Canterbury, England, may have witnessed the formation of a crater on the Moon. The crater, marked by a bright ray system, is today known as the Giordano Bruno crater.
 
The monks reported an impact in which “the upper horn [of the moon] split in two” and a “flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals and sparks.” 
 
Modern astronomers say the monks’ account might actually be pretty accurate! A passing comet or asteroid probably collided with the Moon. The collision likely caused impact melts, or rocks melted by the shock of the powerful impact. This molten material could be the “flaming torch” the monks described.
 
Many modern astronomers, however, don’t think the crater is quite so young, and they’re not sure what the monks saw. According to NASA, one team calculated the age of Giordano Bruno by counting the number of craters that formed on the crater after its own formation. These scientists discovered Giordano Bruno is just over a million years old—very young by cosmic standards, but nowhere near young enough for the English monks to witness!
accurate
Adjective

exact.

asteroid
Noun

irregularly shaped planetary body, ranging from 6 meters (20 feet) to 933 kilometers (580 miles) in diameter, orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter.

astronomer
Noun

person who studies space and the universe beyond Earth's atmosphere.

calculate
Verb

to reach a conclusion by mathematical or logical methods.

collide
Verb

to crash into.

comet
Noun

celestial object made up of ice, gas, and dust that orbits the sun and leaves a tail of debris.

cosmic
Adjective

having to do with the universe (cosmos).

Noun

bowl-shaped depression formed by a volcanic eruption or impact of a meteorite.

impact
Noun

collision or crash.

impact melt
Noun

rocks melted by the shock of a large impact, such as a meteorite on a planet.

molten
Adjective

solid material turned to liquid by heat.

monk
Noun

person who has withdrawn from everyday society and lives in service to a religious order.

Moon
Noun

Earth's only natural satellite.

NASA
Noun

(National Aeronautics and Space Administration) the U.S. space agency, whose mission statement is "To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind."

ray system
Noun

radial streaks of fine ejected material thrown out during the formation of an impact crater.

rock
Noun

natural substance composed of solid mineral matter.

spew
Verb

to eject or discharge violently.

witness
Verb

to see and be aware of by personal, first-hand knowledge.

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