On June 18, 1178, five monks in Canterbury, England, believed they 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.”

In the near past, some astronomers said the monks’ account might actually be pretty right. 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.

This is disputed, however, as a possible cosmic coincidence. Scientists theorize the impact necessary to have created the large moon crater would have ejected so much debris that meteor storms would have occurred for days on Earth. Yet, the monks’ observations were not documented in other parts of the world.

The English monks likely saw a particularly spectacular meteor falling to Earth that just so happened to align with Giordano Bruno crater and Canterbury from their angle of observation. Seeing the meteor burn in Earth’s atmosphere as they looked up to see the crater, made the monks think they were seeing the crater’s creation.

Furthermore, many modern astronomers, however, don’t think the crater is quite so young. Studies estimate the age of Giordano Bruno to be between over a million to 10 million years old—very young by cosmic standards, but nowhere near young enough for the English monks to witness!

accurate

exact.

align
Verb

to put in a straight line.

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.

Noun

layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.

calculate
Verb

to reach a conclusion by mathematical or logical methods.

coincidence
Noun

incident of two or more related things happening at the same time.

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

having to do with the universe (cosmos).

Noun

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

debris
Noun

remains of something broken or destroyed; waste, or garbage.

eject
Verb

to get rid of or throw out.

impact
Noun

collision or crash.

impact melt
Noun

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

Noun

rocky debris from space that enters Earth's atmosphere. Also called a shooting star or falling star.

molten

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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