Feeds

Moon riven by colossal cracks

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

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rockin' boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.