Tag: planetary science (page 1 of 3)

Ancient Signs in the Sky: Did a Meteorite Change the Course of Christianity 2,000 Years Ago?


Detail, The Conversion of St. Paul. Paul and companions are knocked to the ground during the profound event.

Excerpt from ancient-origins.net

Did an ancient meteor have such a life-changing impact on witnesses of the day that it shaped a religion and altered the course of history? Astronomers theorize that the dramatic flash and boom that converted Paul the Apostle may have been an exploding meteor.

In the Christian Bible, it is written that a man named Saul experienced an event so extreme that it changed his views in an instant, and he became one of the most influential evangelists in early Christianity.

Saul was said to have been a vehement persecutor of the followers of Jesus and was traveling in search of disciples of Jesus for punishment. It is written in the fifth book of the New Testament, Acts of the Apostles, that Saul was on the road to Damascus, Syria, when a bright light appeared in the sky. So intense was the light that he was blinded for three days. What he heard was described as a great thunderous sound, or a divine voice. He and his companions are said to have been knocked to the ground by the force of the event. The experience was so profound that Saul changed his name to Paul, took up missionary journeys across the Mediterranean, and became instrumental in spreading Christianity.

The Conversion of Saint Paul – Paul and his companions are knocked to the ground by a resounding boom and brilliant light. Did a meteor cause this ancient event?
The Conversion of Saint Paul – Paul and his companions are knocked to the ground by a resounding boom and brilliant light. Did a meteor cause this ancient event? 


William Hartmann, co-founder of the Planetary Science Institute in the U.S. has connected Paul’s experience with similar accounts of exploding meteors, such as the well-recorded Chelyabinsk meteor which broke up over Russia in 2013, injuring over 1,500 people. The eyewitness descriptions and physical reactions to meteors or fireballs in the sky seem to parallel what is recorded about Paul.

Meteor trail over Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Meteor trail over Chelyabinsk, Russia. Wikimedia Commons


If true, then it’s possible that an act of nature may have been contributory in the spread and evolution of Christianity in its early days, and therefore shaped the course of history.

In a study published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science, Hartmann cites major events like the meteors or asteroids over Chelyabinsk, Russia and Tunguska, Siberia as offering “opportunities to compare reactions of modern eyewitnesses to eyewitness accounts of possible ancient fireball events.” There are consistencies among the many accounts suggesting the biblical descriptions of Paul’s experience closely match known modern events, reports NewScientist.

In the biblical accounts, Paul was blinded for three days due to the intense light from the sky; it was “brighter than the sun, shining round me,” according to the text. This matches the Chelyabinsk meteor, as it was calculated to be shining around three times as bright as the sun. The blazing fireball made shadows move around the ground as it travelled.

Paul and his companions were said to have been knocked to the earth, and this also corresponds to the shockwave generated by the powerful Chelyabinsk meteor as it blasted out windows, knocked people off their feet, shook cars and buildings, and collapsed roofs.
The divine voice is said to have either boomed like thunder, or questioned Paul’s behavior (the exact sound is debated). Meteors create great, explosive booms and roars which can be scary or painful even for those who know what they’re experiencing.

To the ancients the incredible and unfamiliar natural celestial events were interpreted through cultural understandings of the day – which is to say, they were considered divine or damning.

The Chelyabinsk meteor gave off small amounts of radiation, enough to cause sunburn and temporary blindness in witnesses. Harmann suggests that Paul could have suffered photokeratitis, a temporary blindness from intense ultraviolet radiation, and this explains the return of his sight after healing.

Paul having his sight restored after being blinded by a celestial light that might have been a meteor.
Paul having his sight restored after being blinded by a celestial light that might have been a meteor. 


Hartmann told NewScientist, “Everything they are describing in those three accounts in the book of Acts are exactly the sequence you see with a fireball.”

IBTimes writes that the Acts of Apostles text describes three events of bright lights “from heaven” which took place around Damascus during the 30s B.C. If meteorites can be found in Syria, and accurately dated to the relevant timeframes, it might give support to the published theories.

Hartmann’s research aim is not to discredit Christianity, but to demonstrate how the interpretation of ancient events may have shaped how we exist today, spiritually and culturally.

This wouldn’t be the first meteorite in history to have potentially inspired worship or acted as an agent of change. In antiquity meteorites were seen as messages from the gods, or profound omens, and many cultures saw fallen meteorites as religious icons to be worshiped or as objects of protection. Jewelry and art has also been created from the space rocks.

Each year devout Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, circling the Kaaba, or black stone, and give a nod or a kiss to the meteorite that is said to rest inside the Grand Mosque. The worship of the Black Stone goes back to pre-Islamic shrines, when Semitic cultures used unusual stones to signify sites of reverence. According to Muslim belief, the stone originates from the time of Adam and the Islamic prophet Muhammad set the Black Stone in place after it fell from the skies.

A 1315 illustration inspired by the story of Muhammad and the Meccan clan elders lifting the Black Stone into place. Was the black stone a meteor from space?
A 1315 illustration inspired by the story of Muhammad and the Meccan clan elders lifting the Black Stone into place. Was the black stone a meteor from space?


In a more modern example, after the dramatic Chelyabinsk event over Russia in 2013, the ‘Church of the Meteorite’ was set up, and the followers hold rites on the shores of Lake Chebarkul where pieces of the space rock fell.

Some scientists regard the Conversion of Paul theory as speculation, but seem to welcome further evidence.
Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office told NewScientist, “It’s well recorded that extraterrestrial impacts have helped to shape the evolution of life on this planet. If it was a Chelyabinsk fireball that was responsible for Paul’s conversion, then obviously that had a great impact on the growth of Christianity.”

Indeed, “Some scholars call Paul the second founder of Christianity” says Justin Meggitt, religious historian at the University of Cambridge. Without the fireball, and without Paul’s conversion, perhaps Christianity would be different than it is today.
“Christianity probably would be very different without him,” Meggitt concludes.

Illumination from 1450 depicting Paul's conversion – the bright light and sound come from the sky. The event was said to change Paul, and may have changed history.
Illumination from 1450 depicting Paul's conversion – the bright light and sound come from the sky. The event was said to change Paul, and may have changed history. Public Domain
Featured Image: Detail, The Conversion of St. Paul. Paul and companions are knocked to the ground during the profound event.

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Jupiter May Be Behind The Mysterious ‘Gaping Hole’ In Our Solar System

Excerpt from huffingtonpost.comWhen astronomers began studying other solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy back in the 1990s, they noticed something peculiar: most of these systems have big planets that circle their host stars in tight orbits, a fin...

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MAVEN mission finds early surprises in Martian atmosphere

Excerpt from chroniclebulletin.com University of Colorado-led Mars mission has observed two unexpected phenomena in the Martian atmosphere, unveiled Wednesday at the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas.NASA describes the finds by MA...

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Is Titan submarine the most daring space mission yet?

The submersible could extract cores from the seabed to unlock a rich climatic historyExcerpt from bbc.comDropping a robotic lander on to the surface of a comet was arguably one of the most audacious space achievements of recent times. But one...

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Water and Unique Lifeforms are Highly Possible in Countless Unexplored Planets Within our Galaxy





Excerpt from esbtrib.com 

Imagine the distinct possibility that among the billions of stars located in our vast Milky Way Galaxy, there might be a habitable zone where water probably exists and life as we know it as well.
Scientists have studied more than 150 exoplanetary systems with more than one planet circling the host star, thru the Kepler space telescope of NASA.
The new research, published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, revealed the thousands of planets orbiting stars in our Milky Way galaxy.  Researchers were able to compute that the stars in the Milky Way have one to three planets orbiting the habitable zone.
PhD student in the research group Astrophysics and Planetary Science at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen, Steffen Kjær Jacobsen said, “In these 31 planetary systems located near the habitable zone, our calculations showed that there was an average of two planets in the habitable zone. According to statistics and the indications we have, a good share of the planets in the habitable zone will be solid planets where there might be liquid water and where life could exist.”
He added,   “In 124 of the planetary systems, the Titius-Bode law fit with the position of the planets as good as or better than our own solar system. Using Titus-Bode’s law we tried to predict where there could be more planets further out in the planetary systems. But we only made calculations for planets where there is a good chance you can see them with the Kepler satellite,”
Researchers urged other scientist to look further  into the records from the Kepler satellite again for more signs of the planetary systems they have predicted, as a number  of them should be quite apparent.
Will this change our perception of religion? That we are not God’s only living creation?

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Incredible pictures show best views of Mercury’s scorched surface and ice-filled craters




A heat map of Mercury's surface
In this heat map red represents the areas of Mercury's surface where temperatures are up to 126C





Excerpt from express.co.uk


The detailed shots were taken by Nasa's Mercury Messenger spacecraft which is orbiting close to the planet and will crash into it once it runs out of fuel.

The spacecraft will hit into Mercury's surface on April 30 after almost four years exploring the planet closest to the Sun.

The images were revealed at the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in Texas.

Dr Nancy Chabot, the instrument scientist for Messenger's Mercury Dual Imaging System, said: "We're seeing into these craters that don't see the Sun, at higher resolution than was ever possible before."

One shot taken by Messenger shows deep craters on the face of Mercury.

The planet's lack of atmosphere means any space debris that hits the planet leaves large craters.

The Fuller crater on MercuryNASA
The 16mile-wide Fuller crater is among those seen in much more detail on Mercury

We're seeing into these craters that don't see the Sun, at higher resolution than was ever possible before
Dr Nancy Chabot
These are so deep that sunlight does not penetrate all the way down.

Researchers have suggested that would allow ice carried by asteroids to remain there without melting.

While another image taken from Mercury's north polar region shows a heat map of the surface where red represents temperatures up to 126C.

In the shot the vast majority of the planet's surface is red which shows its scorchingly hot surface temperatures.

Sean Solomon, a principal investigator for the mission, added: "We’re able to see at close range portions of the planet we haven’t seen in such detail before."

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Confirmed: Jupiter’s moon Ganymede has a salt water ocean

GanymedeExcerpt from latimes.comAstronomers have found the most conclusive evidence yet that a large watery ocean lies beneath the surface of Jupiter's moon Ganymede.Scientists have suspected for decades that a subterranean ocean ...

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Mayday! Mayday! Mars One a ‘suicide mission’, warn leading space scientists




By Victoria Weldon

IT'S been described as science fiction made real - but now, just as the final selection process gets under way for the folk with the right stuff to make a manned mission to Mars, scientists have dashed the dreams of planet Earth by warning the journey will probably never happen and will end in disaster if it does.
Privately run space exploration programme Mars One wants to send four people to the red planet for the rest of their (probably not very long) lives and film it for reality TV in order to help finance the endeavour.

Thousands have set their sights on becoming the first settlers to land on the planet - and have now been whittled down to a short list of 100, including a Scottish PhD student - but with questionable technology, a lack of funding and an unrealistic timeframe, experts claim it is a "suicide mission".

Mars One believes it can achieve a manned mission in 2024 - sooner than NASA, the European Space Agency, the Russians or Chinese, and on a fraction of their budgets.

If the project does go ahead, the crew would have to make it through nine months of interplanetary travel without being killed by mishap, radiation - or each other.

And even then, a recent study suggested they will only last 68 days on Mars before dying - due to lack of food and water.

However, Anu Ojha OBE, director of the UK National Space Academy Programme, has warned the applicants not to get their hopes up as the mission is unlikely to ever leave the ground.

Ojha said: "Obviously this is something that has captured the public's imagination, and Mars One obviously has a great PR team, but space engineering obeys the laws of physics not PR."
Mars One is the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp who was inspired by the images of Mars sent back by the Sojourner rover in 1997, when he was a student.

Lansdorp, who will not make the journey himself, has an impressive team working on the project including former NASA employees Dr Norbert Kraft, who specialises in the physiological and psychological effects of space travel and space architect Kristian von Bengtson.

Physicist Arno Wielders, who previously worked for Dutch Space, is also on board, as well as a number of other advisers from around the world with backgrounds in space engineering, science and technology, marketing, design and television production.

The ultimate aim is to see a large, self-sustaining colony on Mars, but Ojha, who is also a director at the National Space Centre in Leicester, said there are three major stumbling blocks for the mission: technology, funding and human psychology.

"In terms of technology, it's pushing the absolute boundaries and there seems to be a lot of technological naivety on the part of the people running it", he said.

"There are some elements that seem reasonable, but overall it's concerning, and the timescales are also questionable."

While Mars One is planning the one way mission for 2024, NASA, with its long established expertise and technology, is looking to be able to send humans to Mars and bring them back again by the mid 2030s.

This is estimated to cost up to as much as £100 billion (£64.9bn) for the space agency, while Mars One believes it can do it for an optimistic $6 billion (£3.9bn) - and there are even questions over whether or not they will be able to achieve that much funding.
The private enterprise is hoping to raise money through a TV deal and additional funding from the exposure that will bring the project.

Last year it said it had teamed up with programme makers Endemol, but the Big Brother creators recently pulled out of the deal claiming they were "unable to reach agreement on the details of the contract".

Mars One did not respond to questioning by the Sunday Herald over its funding, but its website showed that as at January this year, it had raised just $759,816 from donations, merchandising, and a crowdfunding campaign.

It is unclear what other funding the project has.

Ojha said: "The business model has so many holes in it, it's shaky to say the least. And when you ask them how much money they have raised, they say it's still ongoing. The time scales and the business model - they're completely unrealistic."

Mars One plans to send several unmanned rockets to Mars ahead of the 2024 mission, with the first of these scheduled to take place in 2018.

These will include missions with robots to find a suitable location for a base and assemble it ahead of the humans' arrival.
The project claims it will use only existing technology for the mission, buying in materials from proven suppliers including Lockheed Martin or SpaceX.

The equipment involved includes several simulation outposts for training, a rocket launcher, a transit vehicle to take the crew to Mars, a Mars landing capsule, two rovers, a Mars suit and a communications system.

However, experts have warned that much of this equipment has not been fully tested. 

Physicist professor Todd Huffman is a big supporter of attempting a manned mission to Mars, but he also has serious concerns about Mars One, claiming it is "scientifically irresponsible".

He said: "The plan stretches the technology in many places.
"The launch vehicle they want to use has not actually ever launched yet, let alone make a trip to Mars.

"The living spaces have not been made nor has it been tested whether they can be robotically assembled and by what kind of robot.

"A suitable site would also need to be found for the living spaces and the details of how water extraction will take place have not been understood.

"If you assign a 90 per cent chance to success to each of those things, all of which are necessary for human survival, you end up with about a 50 per cent chance of failure, ending in the death of the colonists - and that would likely not make good television."
He added: "Unless we [wait for] quite a lot of technology and exploration to happen first, it is basically worse than a one-way ticket for the colonists - it is almost surely a suicide mission if carried out within this next decade."

Although most scientists believe the mission will not go ahead, some have also warned of the psychological impact on the people selected for the mission if it does.

Ojha said: "The thing that's really captured the public's imagination is this idea of it being a one way trip, but this brings another set of problems in terms of human psychology.

"The longest period a human has spent in space is 438 days - they're talking about sending people on a one way trip.
"Lots of the people I've seen interviewed, they're really excited about taking part, but have they really thought about what they're doing and what the implications are?

"I would tell them to go to Antarctica for six months in the middle of winter and that's about 1 per cent of what they'll be experiencing on Mars.

"Human psychology is far more fragile than we think."

However, while many scientists warn of the dangers and do not believe the mission will proceed, they have praised Mars One for sparking the public's interest in planetary science.

Dr John Bridges, of the Space Research Centre in Leicester, said: "It's a very interesting and innovative project, but the time scales are very challenging.

"I believe they're planning for 2024 and it's 2015 now. So for something as major as this, it's a very challenging timescale
"But it's fantastic that people are thinking about this, that industry is getting involved and raising awareness of planetary science."

Ojha added: "Mars One has been great in a way because it's once again drawn people's imagination to the idea of space engineering and exploration. 

"But the reality is that there are serious concerns about the project's space engineering, funding and medical implications."

Lansdorp has previously said that most people are "surprised to hear that the manned missions will be happening in ten years time, with a budget ten times less than Nasa".

He added: "But I think that if you really spend time studying Mars One, you cannot believe there is not a good chance we will make it.
"At the same time, it's a hugely ambitious plan, there's many things that can go wrong with such a big plan.

"But I believe we have a good plan and we can overcome the challenges."

However, he has also conceded that the current plans are an "optimum schedule", adding: "If one rocket doesn't launch, or a lander doesn't work on Mars before a human goes, any major malfunctions will result in a two year delay."

Mars One declined the Sunday Herald's request to interview someone from the project and failed to answer any of our questions.

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Gullies suggest comet Vesta once had flowing water on its surface



This image of the giant asteroid Vesta was taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, as part of a rotation characterization sequence on July 24, 2011


Excerpt from natmonitor.com

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is currently approaching the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter. However, from 2011 to 2013 Dawn collected extensive data on Vesta, the second largest object in the asteroid belt and one of the largest known comets in our solar system.

The data collected from Vesta is still being analyzed and will continue to be for years to come. As the data is examined interesting new information about the giant asteroid is coming to light. Vesta which is very cold and has no atmosphere has long thought to be dry. A new study published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters casts doubt on that assumption.
While there are certainly no rivers and lakes on Vesta, photographs taken by Dawn show evidence of short lived flows of water mobilized material on the surface.

“Nobody expected to find evidence of water on Vesta. The surface is very cold and there is no atmosphere, so any water on the surface evaporates. However, Vesta is proving to be a very interesting and complex planetary body,” said Jennifer Scully, postgraduate researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles in a statement.

The research could change some basic assumptions in planetary science.

“These results, and many others from the Dawn mission, show that Vesta is home to many processes that were previously thought to be exclusive to planets. We look forward to uncovering even more insights and mysteries when Dawn studies Ceres,” said UCLA’s Christopher Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission.
The curved gullies on vesta are very different from what would be expected from dry material flows, say the researchers.

“We’re not suggesting that there was a river-like flow of water. We’re suggesting a process similar to debris flows, where a small amount of water mobilizes the sandy and rocky particles into a flow. These features on Vesta share many characteristics with those formed by debris flows on Earth and Mars,“ said Scully.

The leading theory so far is that Vesta has small patches of ice beneath the surface, possibly deposited by impacts from other comets. Later impacts could have heated the ice enough to thaw some of the water, releasing it into the crater.

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NASA Spacecraft Begins 1st Ever Approach To Pluto





Excerpt from 
sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Man is about to reach closer to Pluto than ever before as the NASA New Horizons spacecraft begins the first of several approach phases toward the dwarf planet at the edge of our solar system.

When the mission was in the planning phases, Pluto was still considered a planet, but in 2006 it was reclassified as a dwarf planet. That same year, the New Horizons spacecraft blasted off as the fastest ever, shooting out off on a 4.6 billion mile journey to the distant sphere.


The piano-size New Horizons craft was in a hibernation phase as it traveled the first 3 billion miles toward Pluto. It woke up last month and is now getting ready for the first photo shoot.

“NASA first mission to distant Pluto will also be humankind’s first close up view of this cold, unexplored world in our solar system,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington.

Beginning January 25th, the probe will begin snapping photos of Pluto, which is the 10th largest celestial body orbiting our sun.
The later stages of approach will require steering the craft closer to Pluto by using photo information to steer around five known moons and other potential perils.

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Hubble Survey Spots Two New Objects Beyond Pluto


Excerpt from

news.discovery.com

Scientists looking for targets beyond Pluto for NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft to visit will get more time on the Hubble Space Telescope, managers decided after a two-week pilot study revealed at least two candidate objects.

The New Horizons team had spent three fruitless years using ground-based telescopes to find a Kuiper Belt Object that will be within range of New Horizons after its July 14, 2015, flyby of Pluto. Last month, scientists got two weeks of observing time on Hubble for initial scans.

The deal was that if they found at least two candidates, they could have another 160 orbits worth of telescope time to ferret out a second suitable target for New Horizons...

The Kuiper Belt is an area of icy bodies left over from the formation of the solar system...

Analysis of an initial 200 Hubble images, taken between June 16 and June 26, showed that at least two Kuiper Belt Objects might be within range of New Horizons...


A more detailed search is scheduled to begin this month and conclude in August.

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Lunar Lava Left "Strikingly Geometric" Shapes on the Moon’s Surface


moon lava


scientificamerican.com

A massive feature on the moon formed due to lunar rifts, in a surprise revision to earlier theories, research shows. Previously, scientists thought the moon's Ocean of Storms was a round crater left after a giant impact, but now researchers have found it is underlain by a giant rectangle created by cooling lunar lava as the moon formed.
This finding reveals the early moon was far more dynamic than previously thought, scientists added.
The Ocean of Storms, or Oceanus Procellarum, is the largest of the moon's maria, giant dark spots visible on the near side of the moon. Early astronomers, mistaking these features for oceans, named them maria, Latin for seas. However, they are actually giant plains of the dark rock basalt. 
Stormy history for Ocean of Storms
Scientists had previously thought the Ocean of Storms was created by a giant cosmic impact that left a crater about 2,000 miles wide (3,200 kilometers) that filled with lava. Now, data from NASA's GRAIL mission reveals that Procellarum is not round, but instead is surrounded by a strange giant rectangle underneath the moon's surface. This suggests the Ocean of Storms was not caused by a meteor strike on the moon. Instead, researchers suggest, it formed as the moon's surface rifted apart.

"GRAIL has revealed features on the moon that no one anticipated before we had this data in hand," said lead study author Jeffrey Andrews-Hanna, a planetary scientist at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. "One can only wonder what might lie hidden beneath the surfaces of all of the other planets in the solar system." 
NASA's twin GRAIL spacecraft, named Ebb and Flow, orbited the moon and measured how the strength of the moon's gravitational pull varied over its surface. Anything that has mass has a gravitational field that pulls objects toward it, and the strength of this field depends on the amount of mass in the object. Variations in the strength of the moon's gravitational pull can therefore help reveal how mass is concentrated there below the surface. NASA launched the GRAIL moon gravity probes (the name is short for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) in September 2011. The mission ended in December 2012 when the two spacecraft were intentionally crashed into the moon's surface.
The ultra-precise gravity map of the moon from the GRAIL mission unexpectedly revealed a set of linear structures arranged in a rectangular shape about 1,600 miles (2,600 km) wide around Procellarum. The angular shape of the Ocean of Storm's borders reveal it was not created by a cosmic impact, which would have left a crater with a circular rim.
"The observed pattern of gravity anomalies on the moon is so strikingly geometric and in such an unexpected shape that it is forcing us to think in new and different ways about the processes operating on the moon and planets in general," Andrews-Hanna told Space.com.
Lunar lava and moon geometry
The researchers suggest these newfound structures are the remnants of valleys filled in with frozen lava. These valleys arose as the surface of the moon rifted open.

"As a solid cools and contracts, fractures and faults can form, and these fractures will commonly take on a polygonal pattern," Andrews-Hanna explained. "An excellent example of this is found in cooling lava flows on Earth where the lava breaks up into hexagonal columns, as can be seen at Devil's Postpile National Monument in California. These hexagons form because when three cracks intersect, they do so at 120-degree angles, and the only polygon on a flat surface that you can make with all 120-degree angles is a hexagon. These 120-degree intersections are seen at all scales, from the intersections of centimeter-scale cracks in drying mud to the intersections of giant rift valleys in eastern Africa."
On the moon, these ancient rift zones took on a rectangular order.
"Geometry on a sphere is different than geometry on a flat surface — this is why airplanes appear to follow curved paths when you look at their flight trajectories on a map," Andrews-Hanna said. "For a feature of the size of the Procellarum region, a polygon with 120-degree corner angles has four sides instead of six — or, stated another way, a square the size of Procellarum on the surface of a sphere the size of the moon has 120 degree angles instead of the 90 degree angles you expect on a flat surface."
The rift valleys filled in with lava until 3.5 billion years ago. This lava likely came from sources within the rift valleys themselves, Andrews-Hanna said. It remains uncertain whether the rift valleys formed before or during the volcanism that filled Procellarum with the lava that cooled to form the black rock that currently dominates the area, he added.
Rift zones are well known on Earth, Venus and Mars, but previously unknown on the moon. "This reveals a much more dynamic early moon than we had previously envisioned," Andrews-Hanna said. "I think we are only just beginning to understand the earliest history of the moon."
The newfound pattern of structures on the moon is quite similar to the structures seen on Saturn's icy moon Enceladus, which may have experienced a similar geological history, the researchers noted. Prior research had not predicted these structures on either the moon or Enceladus, "which tells us that we have much left to learn in order to understand the full spectrum of planetary evolution," Andrews-Hanna said.
The research is detailed in the Oct. 2 edition of the journal Nature.

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The Mystery Behind Moon’s Strange Shapes

Earth's moon is pictured as observed in visible light, left, topography, center, where red is high and blue is low, and the GRAIL gravity gradients, right. The Procellarum region is a broad region of low topography covered in dark mare basalt. The g...

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