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These explosions don\'t require oxygen or combustion. Meteoroids hit the moon with tremendous kinetic energy, traveling 30,000 mph or faster. \"At that speed, even a pebble can blast a crater several feet wide. The impact heats up rocks and soil on the lunar surface hot enough to glow like molten lava--hence the flash.\"
During meteor showers such as the Quadrantids or Perseids, when the Moon passes through dense streams of cometary debris, the rate of lunar flashes can go as high as one per hour. Impacts subside when the Moon exits the stream, but curiously the rate never goes to zero.
\"Even when no meteor shower is active, we still see flashes,\" says Cooke.