Australian researchers have discovered 280 new craters on the Moon by combining data about its gravity and surface for the first time. The project, undertaken by a team from Perth’s Curtin University – kicked-off by a Federal Government grant – developed a high-resolution image of the earth’s gravity. Researchers then applied the same technique to the Moon which allowed them to reveal more detailed basins that had never been mapped ::::
Professor Will Featherstone says they first looked for craters on the far side of the Moon, which cannot be seen from Earth. He says the team then decided to map all of the craters on the Moon using the new technique.
“We were able to spot these new impact craters,” Professor Featherstone said. “Some of them have been seen before but what we’re doing is using both the gravity and the topography together to give us a stronger indication that there really is something there.”
Professor Featherstone says as well as the Moon, the project also mapped different gravity levels across Mars, meaning scientists can now learn more about the planet’s inner structure.
“If the gravity anomaly is large, there’s denser rocks beneath,” Professor Featherstone said. “Likewise, if gravity is lighter then it shows there are less dense rocks, so by plotting the gravity map, we can then start to look inside the planets.”
Professor Featherstone expects the findings will help scientists better understand the history of the solar system.
“Our work initially focussed on the identification of two basins on the lunar far side, but was extended during the peer-review process of scientific papers so as to cover the whole Moon,” Professor Featherstone said.
“The dark side of the Moon is particularly challenging because Moon-orbiting satellites cannot be tracked from Earth when they are over the far side.”
Professor Featherstone said the team was optimistic about further discoveries after applying their techniques to the new gravity data collected by NASA’s GRAIL mission, which ceased when the two satellites – named Ebb and Flow – were deliberately crashed on the Moon on 17 December 2012.
The research on the 280 new lunar craters will soon be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets. Images are available from the contact below.
source: curtinuniversity image source:nasa-grail