July 25, 2024


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Scientists have a theory: ScienceAlert

Scientists have a theory: ScienceAlert

The face of the Moon is famous for its gray, cratered skin, but did you know that if you pointed a telescope at our planet’s neighboring moon, you’d also see bright spots marring the surface?

Since these strange features became known as Moon swirls They were first spotted. In the seventeenth centuryScientists have wondered where these creatures came from.

To this day, light-colored regions such as those in the famous Reiner Gamma spiral (pictured below) remain. remain a mystery.

The lunar vortex known as Reiner Gamma.US Government/Public Domain)

A new study by scientists from Stanford University and Washington University in St. Louis (WUSL) provides evidence for a new explanation.

Unlike Earth, the Moon no longer generates a global magnetic field to protect it from charged particles from the Sun. This means that when solar winds hit the Moon’s surface, they darken the rock over time due to chemical reactions.

However, some pockets on the Moon appear to be protected by small magnetic fields.

So far, every light-shaded lunar vortex scientists have discovered coincides with one of these local magnetic fields. However, not all of the rocks within them are reflective, Not all magnetic fields On the moon there are vortices.

So, what’s going on on Earth (or rather, on the Moon)?

Some recent studies have explained the confusing results by suggesting that micrometeoroid impacts on the Moon can kick up charged dust particles, and where these particles land, a local magnetic field barrier is created and the solar wind is deflected.

But researchers at Stanford University and the University of Washington are now questioning this hypothesis. They claim that another force is “magnetizing” the lunar vortices, deflecting solar wind particles.

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“Effects could These types of magnetic anomalies cause, admits Planetary scientist Michael Krawczynski at WUSL.

“But there are some vortices where we’re not sure how they’re going to affect the creation of this shape and this size of the thing.”

Krawczynski suggests that forces beneath the Earth’s crust may also be responsible. “Another theory is that there is lava underground, slowly cooling in a magnetic field, creating the magnetic anomaly,” he says.

Moon swirls
Lunar swirls near the crater Versov.NASA/Public Domain)

Scientists have detected radar evidence of molten rock flowing just beneath the moon’s surface. These underground rivers of cooling magma point to a period of volcanic activity billions of years ago.

Using a model of magma cooling rates, Krawczynski and his colleagues examined how a titanium-iron oxide mineral called ilmenite — which is abundant on the moon and is commonly found in volcanic rocks — could produce a magnetic effect.

Their experiments show that under the right conditions, the slow cooling of ilmenite can induce grains of metallic iron and iron-nickel alloys within the Moon’s crust and upper mantle to produce a strong magnetic field.

The researchers concluded that this effect “could explain the strong magnetic regions associated with the Moon’s vortex.”

“If you’re going to create magnetic anomalies in the ways we’re describing, the magma underground needs to have a high titanium content,” He says Krautzinski.

“We’ve seen hints of this iron-forming reaction in lunar meteorites and in Apollo lunar samples. But all of those samples are surface lava flows, and our study shows that underground cooling would greatly enhance these metal-forming reactions.”

Much of what we know so far about the Moon’s local magnetic fields comes from spacecraft orbiting the Moon, which can measure the effect with radar. But to really understand what’s going on, we need to drill directly into the Moon’s surface.

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This is exactly why NASA exists. send a spacecraft To the Reiner Gamma vortex in 2025 as part of the Lunar Vertex mission.

Within a few years, scientists may have the evidence they need to solve this mystery.

The study was published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.