NASA’s GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) mission has spilled some more secret. The new data suggests that a volcanic plume, and not a striking asteroid, caused the 2,900km-wide section of Procellarum region on the near side of the moon. The Procellarum region is a broad region of low topography enclosed in dark mare basalt.
According to the latest research, published in the journal Nature, the Ocean of Storms- a giant basin often referred to as the “man in the moon” has most probably arisen from magma deep within the interior of the moon.
The research team from MIT, the Colorado School of Mines and other institutions from a high-resolution map discovered that the border comprised of sharp angles which can’t be created due to an asteroid impact as the impact of asteroids normally leads to circular craters not polygon one with edges made up of 120-degree angles.
According to the researchers the sharp edges and angles are gigantic tension cracks created following the cooling down of the moon’s crust- repercussion of a volcanic episode and defacing left due to a phenomenal upwelling of magma, deep the moon’s interior.
MIT geophysicist and principal investigator for the GRAIL mission, Maria Zuber enlightened that the cracks served as a “plumbing system” that led magma flow to the surface and gradually filled the area’s smaller basin.
They modeled the region’s gravitational signal to check the hypothesis and discovered that the ensuing simulation sustained the idea of Procellarum arising from a magma plume.
“A lot of things in science are really complicated, but I’ve always loved to answer simple questions,” said Zuber. “How many people have looked up at the moon and wondered what produced the pattern we see — let me tell you, I’ve wanted to solve that one!”
“GRAIL ( twin probes which orbited the moon from January to December 2012) has been a fantastic mission, and this data will be continually used and reinterpreted as we get more data back from the moon,” expressed researcher Clive Neal, professor of civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences, University of Notre Dame.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this data by a long shot.”
“The rectangular pattern of gravity anomalies was completely unexpected,” said Jeff Andrews-Hanna, a GRAIL co-investigator at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado also the lead author of the paper.
“Using the gradients in the gravity data to reveal the rectangular pattern of anomalies, we can now clearly and completely see structures that were only hinted at by surface observations.”
But Ms Zuber still doubts the complete deciphering of the mystery.
“How such a plume arose remains a mystery. It could be due to radioactive decay of heat-producing elements in the deep interior, said Zuber.
“Or, conceivably, a very early large impact triggered the plume. But in the latter case, all evidence for such an impact has been completely erased.
“People who thought that all this volcanism was related to a gigantic impact need to go back and think some more about that.”