Feeds

Moon riven by colossal cracks

GRAIL mission's twin spacecraft reveal thin crust, no cheese

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Ebb and Flow, the twin spacecraft that comprise NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, have created a gravity map and other analyses of the moon, and Lunar boffins have used the results to assert that our sole natural satellite is riven by deep cracks.

Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explained the utility of a gravity map to NASA, saying "When we see a notable change in the gravity field, we can sync up this change with surface topography features such as craters, rilles or mountains."

The map therefore “reveals an abundance of features never before seen in detail, such as tectonic structures, volcanic landforms, basin rings, crater central peaks and numerous simple, bowl-shaped craters.”

Zuber says the map also “reveals evidence for fracturing of the interior extending to the deep crust and possibly the mantle.” That crust, says Mark Wieczorek, a GRAIL co-investigator at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, has an “average thickness of the moon's crust is between 21 and 27 miles (34 and 43 kilometers), which is about 6 to 12 miles (10 to 20 kilometers) thinner than previously thought.”

GRAIL's Gravity Field of the Moon

The gravity field of the moon as measured by NASA's GRAIL mission.
Units are milliGalileos where 1 Galileo is 1 centimeter per second squared.
Reds correspond to areas of higher local gravity, and blues correspond
to mass deficits which create areas of lower local gravity.
Image credit: NASA/ARC/MIT

Wieczorek added that "With this crustal thickness, the bulk composition of the moon is similar to that of Earth. This supports models where the moon is derived from Earth materials that were ejected during a giant impact event early in solar system history."

The new map shows what NASA describes as “tectonic structures, volcanic landforms, basin rings, crater central peaks and numerous simple, bowl-shaped craters,” all revealed for the first time.

The new details about the Moon are fully-explained in three Science papers and were detailed at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco yesterday.

The revelations are the result of the main phase of the GRAIL mission, which saw the moon bathed in X-rays to collect the data. That phase has now ended and the twin probes may be granted an extended mission, but the mission design says “Following the Science Phase (or extended mission phase), a 5-day decommissioning period is planned, after which the spacecraft will impact the lunar surface in ~40 days.”

It would be poetic if the probes fell into the cracks it discovered. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
LOHAN Kickstarter breaks NINETEEN THOUSAND of your EARTH POUNDS
That's right, OVER 9,000 beer tokens - and counting
Major cyber attack hits Norwegian oil industry
Statoil, the gas giant behind the Scandie social miracle, targeted
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.