Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Moon's Rough 'Wrinkles' Reveal Clues To Its Past

16.05.2011
Written on the moon's weary face are the damages it has endured for the past 4-1/2 billion years. From impact craters to the dark plains of maria left behind by volcanic eruptions, the scars are all that remain to tell the tale of what happened to the moon. But they only hint at the processes that once acted—and act today—to shape the surface.

To get more insight into those processes, Meg Rosenburg and her colleagues at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. put together the first comprehensive set of maps revealing the slopes and roughness of the moon's surface. These maps are based on detailed data collected by the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. LOLA and LRO were built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Like wrinkles on skin, the roughness of craters and other features on the moon's surface can reveal their age. "The key is to look at the roughness at both long and short scales," says Rosenburg, who is the first author on the paper describing the results, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research earlier this year.

The roughness depends on the subtle ups and downs of the landscape, a quality that the researchers get at by measuring the slope at locations all over the surface. To put together a complete picture, the researchers looked at roughness at a range of different scales—the distances between two points—from 17 meters (about 56 feet) to as much as 2.7 kilometers (about 1.6 miles).

"Old and young craters have different roughness properties—they are rougher on some scales and smoother on others," says Rosenburg. That's because the older craters have been pummeled for eons by meteorites that pit and mar the site of the original impact, changing the original shape of the crater.

"Because this softening of the terrain hasn't happened at the new impact sites, the youngest craters immediately stand out," says NASA Goddard's Gregory Neumann, a co-investigator on LOLA.

"It is remarkable that the moon exhibits a great range of topographic character: on the extremes, surfaces roughened by the accumulation of craters over billions of years can be near regions smoothed and resurfaced by more recent mare volcanism," says Oded Aharonson, Rosenburg's advisor at the California Institute of Technology.

By looking at where and how the roughness changes, the researchers can get important clues about the processes that shaped the moon. A roughness map of the material surrounding Orientale basin, for example, reveals subtle differences in the ejecta, or debris, that was thrown out when the crater was formed by a giant object slamming into the moon.

That information can be combined with a contour map that shows where the high and low points are. "By looking at both together, we can say that one part of Orientale is not just higher or lower, it's also differently rough," Rosenburg says. "That gives us some clues about the impact process that launched the ejecta and also about the surface processes that later acted to modify it."

Likewise, the smooth plains of maria, which were created by volcanic activity, have a different roughness "signature" from the moon's highlands, reflecting the vastly different origins of the two terrains. Maria is Latin for "seas," and they got that name from early astronomers who mistook them for actual seas.

Just as on the moon, the same approach can be used to study surface processes on other bodies as well, Rosenburg says. "The processes at work are different on Mars than they are on an asteroid, but they each leave a signature in the topography for us to interpret. By studying roughness at different scales, we can begin to understand how our nearest neighbors came to look the way they do."

Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Liz Zubritsky | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/news/moon-wrinkles.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms
17.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

nachricht New functional principle to generate the „third harmonic“
16.02.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Biocompatible 3-D tracking system has potential to improve robot-assisted surgery

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Real-time MRI analysis powered by supercomputers

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Antibiotic effective against drug-resistant bacteria in pediatric skin infections

17.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>