Mysterious swirls on the moon may finally be explained: ScienceAlert

Mysterious swirls on the moon may finally be explained: ScienceAlert

The vortex patterns etched on the Moon’s surface appear to be linked to changes in the shape of that surface.

In closely studying the mysterious features known as lunar eddies, scientists have found that at least two of them are linked to the moon’s topography. This is evidence that could finally help scientists figure out what causes these shiny curls, the origin of which remains far from explained.

“The legal interpretation of lunar vortices is that topography has no effect on the location or shape of the vortex,” explains planetary scientist John Weyrich of the Planetary Science Institute.

“However, Domingue and others found that the bright regions of the lunar vortex in Mare Ingeni have a lower elevation than the dark lanes between them. They reached this conclusion by generating and examining topographic data for lunar vortices at a higher resolution than previously conducted.”

Lunar eddies at Mare Ingenii. (Howard Fink/CloudyNights)

Lunar swirls are strange and beautiful. As the name suggests, they are swirling patterns that can be found on the Moon, whether in the dark basalt plains (dark, volcanic lunar basalt plains) or in the bright highlands. It is characterized by bright curl lines separated by dark gaps.

We know a few things about them. Every lunar vortex identified so far coincides with a magnetic field above the moon’s surface, which scientists believe deflects solar particles, preventing space weathering from affecting the vortexes as much as it does the surrounding Earth. There also appears to be a connection between lunar eddies and the lava tubes buried beneath them.

It was thought that there was no connection between surface shape and the shape of eddies, but recent research has shown that this may not be true.

A team led by planetary scientist Deborah Domingo of the Planetary Science Institute found that in the vortex in a region known as Mare Ingeni, the bright lines are lower than the dark lanes between them by about 2 to 3 meters (6.6 to 9.8 feet). ).

Finding this once is interesting, but not enough to determine the association. So, Weirich and his colleagues investigated another, more famous vortex, known as Reiner gamma. They took data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, and processed it using a suite that included machine learning to extract surface topography at high resolution.

Their results were similar to those seen in the vortex seen at Mare Ingenie.

“In this paper, we study Reiner gamma and find that the bright regions are about 4 meters (13 feet) lower than the dark regions,” Weyrich says.

“However, it is not that simple because the bright areas are less uniform than the dark areas. If this were the case, it would be easy to prove this relationship between terrain and vortex by comparing the height map to the image of the vortex. Instead, this relationship only appears when “We compare the average height of the bright areas and the average height of the dark areas.”

Lunar vortices were spotted in an area called Mare Marginis. (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

This means that we have now seen height changes in two of the eddies, suggesting that Marie Ingenie’s observations were not just a strange coincidence or a mere coincidence. It may be necessary to study more details to identify a pattern.

The information doesn’t tell us what causes the vortexes either; Not now anyway. But every new piece of information we find is evidence that can help uncover their dark secrets. We don’t have anything like it here on Earth, so scientists think it could tell us something unique about the moon, its history, and what’s going on beneath its quiet surface.

“There are many hypotheses about their formation process. Each hypothesis has observations that support it, but there are also other observations that contradict it,” Weyrich says.

“Because we don’t have a complete understanding of how these eddies form, we don’t fully understand the story they can tell us about the Moon. Their formation could involve a set of well-understood processes interacting together, or currently unknown objects or phenomena that are… “Sometimes it’s the key to getting deeper knowledge, which is why lunar vortexes are so interesting.”

The research was published in Planetary Science Journal.

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